I have decided to start publishing a twice-weekly update of a more personal nature with reflections on my writing life and creative journey. I will call it “Life as I know it.” Today is approximately Day 54 of quarantine. And it is yet another day in which I am taut with strumming anxiety.
Yesterday, a Baker County judge overturned Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s emergency shelter-in-place orders. The Supreme Court stayed the order – for now. The second headline called it “whiplash in Oregon,” and that’s how a lot of this pandemic feels on a day to day basis. You never quite know what is coming next. It looks like I will be able to telecommute this month, and then after that state offices are planning a gradual re-opening. June will be here before I know it.
Today, however, I have the day off, because I have grand jury duty this afternoon. Most jury trials have been postponed. However, grand jury is statutory. Ordinarily, I think it would be interesting, whereas most people would see it as a burden. You meet twice a week for the next two months to review the district attorney’s evidence to bring an indictment against a defendant, typically in felony cases. But hanging out in a 100-year-old building with its ancient air circulation with people not required to wear masks does not sound like my idea of a good time. I didn’t defer, because it is my obligation as a citizen of this country, and it is not a hardship for me to participate. I still hope I do not get selected. I do not want to serve in a pandemic. But at least I am not leaving my house to party at a bar or do a collaborative photoshoot. It is an important obligation, and one I take very seriously.
I didn’t want to wear my N95 dust mask to this because I find it difficult to breathe in them, so I rustled up the face covering I used to wear when riding my bicycle to work in the bitter winter wind. This is a reunion of sorts for me as I worked at this courthouse for five years as a court clerk; I left that job only a year ago. However, I’m going to be cranky to anyone not wearing a mask or standing less than six feet apart from me. I haven’t been outside of the house except for walks, gardening and a trip to the office in the past couple months, so I am nervous.
Last night I stayed up late because I heard tires squealing on the pavement outside, followed by sirens, so my inner gossip vulture got the best of me and I flicked on my police scanner. Old newspaper habits die hard; except in modern times, it’s an app on my phone. It was a car wreck. The driver ran into a tree and a power pole and had to be extricated. I hope everyone is okay. You only ever hear parts of the story on a scanner, and incidents like these are often never reported in social media or the newspaper. It’s a bizarre feeling, listening to these first responders and their cool, collected voices, efficiently doing their jobs in the dead of the night, the crackle of their radios and the clip of their call signs glinting in the background. Listening to the scanner reminds me how thankful I am for first responders. It reminds me of the challenging, stressful conditions in which they must work every day when most of us are sleeping.
This morning I was up early, looking at clothes and guitars on my phone, none of which I will buy, as I am saving my money. Now my social media advertisements will be flooded with clothing and guitars.
Amid all this uncertainty and anxiety, I also realized I want to get back into freelance writing. I don’t want to do what I did before, write articles for community newspapers. I want to branch out into content marketing, but I am hesitant about where to start. I don’t want to use websites like Upwork and Fiverr. They are always recommended to beginners. But I have more training and experience than that so it seems insulting to try those databases, and they always lowball rates and are filled with scams among a few legitimate opportunities. Also, they seem like multi-level marketing schemes, because I am sure users get paid for referrals, or they wouldn’t be so aggressive about pushing them to anyone asking for advice. Freelance writing is one of those few fields that is based on a meritocracy, and your reputation is everything. You obtain the best, most legitimate jobs based on who you know. I don’t have a reputation, yet.
I do, however, need recent clips, because my last published nonfiction writing is from 2015. After I left journalism and PR, I wrote freelance for a time, but I wrote it out of spite, and the spite soon fizzled out. I wasn’t meeting my deadlines, and I decided I wasn’t up for the hustle and I needed to change gears and focus on my hobbies. But since blogging, and since writing short stories in the last year or so, I feel my confidence returning, and I am seeing writing as joyful and fun again. I’ve had eight years experience as a journalist, social media manager, and communications specialist. I have a BA in creative writing. I am a good writer. I can communicate well and tell engaging stories. I shouldn’t forget that.
I would like to write blogs, website content, newsletters, white papers and articles for companies and organizations. I think the place to start is to get some more recent clips, so I will be pitching some articles to some places, regardless of what they pay. Not Fiverr. Magazines and websites that accept guest posts. I can use these as recent clips to accompany letters of interest.
I plan on continuing to write a short story every week and submitting it. I missed this week’s submission. I still need to write it. This one is still going to be the contemporary, non-magical piece and I am aiming for 3,000 words. I guess I am nervous about it because I am out of my element and I am targeting a more competitive market.
I got rejected for the flash fiction piece I submitted over the weekend and I am still waiting on another response. This makes four submissions total for the year and one acceptance. I’d say that’s a pretty good rate. The rejection was pretty encouraging, too; it was a form rejection, but they said I should submit another piece some time. I was trying for a semi-pro market with that one, so I didn’t have high expectations. I wrote about it on Twitter, to try to encourage others to think differently about rejections, and to show publishers who may be looking at my Twitter feed what I’m like to work with. I can handle criticism and rejection. It’s just part of the process. You’re one submission away from a rejection, but also one submission away from an acceptance. And the acceptance is all the more special if the bar is high.
In other news, my personal intentions for the week are to practice my flute, to lay off drinking, and to get back to my exercise routine. My gym is reopening next week, but I emailed them to cancel my membership. I don’t feel safe working out there during COVID-19. I will miss the strength training machines, but hopefully it will be safer next year. I need to just get into the habit of working out every day. The act of leaving the house and going to a gym always motivated me in the past, but really, I have no excuses at home. I could even take a 15-minute yoga break. All it takes is to get the muscles moving. And yet, I am conditioned to waste time on my phone, instead. And my garden is starting to grow in earnest, but my partner has been doing most of the work out there. I would like to get some gardening in this week. That is good exercise, too.
So I still am fighting anxiety, but I feel like a bee trapped in a Tupperware jar. I’m buzzing angrily against the walls and I need to do something other than punch the rubber.