I didn’t learn it all in Kindergarten: I learned a lot this week


(Photos from our 1998 trip to Yellowstone)

One of the things I like best about being a freelance writer is the chance to interview people, learn what makes them tick, and then weave those words in such a way that others think they know that person a bit better having read the article. But every so often I have one of those weeks where I wonder what I was thinking to not just go down to Taco Bell and put on a hairnet and learn to make churros.

This was one of those weeks.

Despite the hassles, I did learn a few things worth sharing:

* Most travel agents in this podunk – (I say that with affection; I love that our town can still be called podunk) – town do not understand the concept of good press. When I called one in particular to ask some survey questions for a travel piece, she said – and I quote – “I am not going to do your homework for you. How lazy can you be?” This was followed by a dial tone. Guess who I WON’T be calling for my travel arrangements?

*Some travel agents recognize free advertising when they see it. “Will you mention my agency in the article?” one guy asked. Have to in the quote, so, yes, I will. A boatload of emails filled with fully-planned vacation iteneraries and tentative booking information arrived within minutes. Needless to say, this motivated agent will have his moment in the sunshine.

* The “best” travel spots cost an arm and a leg, and maybe some birthrights of your firstborn. Most writers write about these places, they do not have the money to actually go there. Someday I want to be that reclusive writer who lives on a tropical island living off the proceeds of my work. Yeah, and I might as well discover the elixir of youth while I’m at it.

* Editors are grateful when you don’t throw a hissy-fit when a project is completely revamped after hours of research. They offer nice things like more assignments next month. About now, I’d rather have a chocolate cupcake.

* When you receive a phone call right in the middle of working on an assignment, it can make you cranky. When you find out the call is to tell you a very dear, loved lady has made it through surgery for breast cancer and is doing fine, well, it puts it all back in perspective. You have a smile that won’t wipe away even when the work gets frustrating.

* Even teenage kids do not like it when you close the door and tell them you are working. This is a clear sign for “emergencies” to crop up which need your attention. Hint – not being able to find the butter is not an emergency. It is another item added to your chore list: clean out the fridge.

* A supper of cottage cheese, lunchmeat, canned fruit, and a bag of carrots makes your family think you don’t really love them any more. But they eat it anyway, because actually making the effort to fix something else sounds like a worse option.

* There is really a Podunk Bluegrass Festival in Connecticut. I don’t want to go.

* There are “vacation” cruises on container ships. I don’t want to go on them, either. Can you imagine the food in their all-you-can-eat buffet? It would make my cottage cheese look gourmet. And what happens if you’re out sunning on the deck when one of those containers shifts a wee bit? Sounds too much like a Law & Order episode waiting to happen. I’ll be nervous if my husband suggests this trip for our next anniversary.

* If you write about Yellowstone and then book a vacation after the story is completed, the press contact still offers you a pile of freebies. Too bad most of them are just brochures.

* If you propose writing a story about wolf research in Yellowstone, the Institute will offer to take you off-path to see the real work they do. I so want to go.

* When you are up against a deadline, don’t have enough surveys filled out from your travel “experts”, and haven’t been to ten other great-t0-visit islands, you can still write 3000 words on great fall getaways and finish on time. But only if you use the Podunk Bluegrass Festival to round out the great countryside getaways. I still don’t want to go.

* The dog gets worried and whimpers by the door when I start talking back in a loud voice at the computer.

* When the kids discover I have scrounged together a last-minute vacation to Yellowstone, they seem excited. At least the eight-year-old does. He is really excited. Do teenagers ever get that excited unless it’s a new upgrade for their iPod Video?

* Custom home builders don’t return phone calls they’ve paid you to make. Then they tell the sales rep they haven’t heard from you. Then they tell you they must have “missed your call”. All ten of them. No worries. I have kids. I’ve waited for an five-year-old to finish his green beans. Now that takes patience.

* Dyslexia isn’t always dyslexia. Sometimes it’s dysgraphia masquerading as dyslexia.

* Boiling the significance of someone else’s life down into a 200-word blurb can actually be fun. Does that make something wrong with me?

And last – I discovered this little nugget from a fellow-writer’s blog (thanks, JA):

* All writers have to be a bit like narcississts. Otherwise they could never believe that someone else would want to read what they wrote, much less pay for it. Good thing this blog is free – I never have to know for sure who would or wouldn’t read mine!

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2 thoughts on “I didn’t learn it all in Kindergarten: I learned a lot this week

  1. Wow, just reading about your work load makes me tired. I hope you get to go check out the wolves. Going to Yellowstone is definitely on my to-do list before I leave this planet!Here is something else for you to write, since you don’t have enough to write about. You just got tagged with a meme. Go check out my website to see for yourself. Basically you have to answer a few questions and then tag someone else.www.melissasmanicmusings.blogspot.com

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