Sunday, April 06, 2008

Headway. Until.

"It must be something psychological."

Those are words I frequently mimic when I'm in my snarkier moods. They were uttered by a woman I used to be in a bowling league with.

I am a truly bad bowler. No kidding. I cheerfully gave my 8-lb. monogrammed bowling ball, bag and shoes to a co-worker a few years ago and have not missed them for a second. Long before that, however, a friend who was pregnant asked if I would fill in for her during a half-season.

"I'm really a rotten bowler," I protested.

"Oh, that's okay. It's a handicap league," she replied.

First off, I have arthritis in my bowling hand, so it gets tired very easily. Second, I can't "feel what I look like" when my arm comes back. Everybody else can see it, though, and they all tell me it's wrong. After hearing it approximately 3000 times I get a little irritated.

"Don't take that tone with me," said my teammates.

Fine. What fucking ever.

Then came the other problem. I would bowl a spare and follow it up with a gutter, or bowl a strike, and follow that up with two consecutive gutters.

That gave rise to the immortal quote above, which I overheard spoken to someone else in a not-quite whisper after I "did it again."

So I finally quit the league; we were all happy to be rid of one another (also because I would bring Wally with me at age 6 and he would frequently misbehave when I wasn't available to supervise him). On my last day, I bowled a turkey. Everybody gaped at the scoreboard, then at me, and I walked out without a word.

Bad attitude? Ya think?

Anyway, that was a long time ago and I have not bowled since.

The sentiment expressed above came back to haunt me again today, however. And I was nowhere near a bowling alley.

I've taken to writing articles online for bits of money. Since last June I've made nearly $7. The more articles you write, and the more favorably they're received, the more you get. Some of the work I've submitted is crap I dashed off from the top of my head, but some of it is good enough to steadily earn money, and I've even gotten one used as a Featured article. I've recently started taking extra care with the submissions. I've become (semi) convinced that you can write on any topic under the sun, because someone else has already published something online. All you have to do is rework it so that you're not blatantly copying someone else's work. The more sources you use, the better. It's a good way to flex my writing muscles.

Yesterday I published something related to food and thought (if I do say so myself) that it was dayum good. Today I spent 3 hours on a piece concerning music from the 1960s. Again, the effort paid off. Then I found another topic, travel-related, and challenged myself to write something decent on that. Again, I think it turned out rather well.

Then I turned to the "serious" stuff. The things that publishers will pay "real money" for. It's not a fortune, $30 here, $200 for something really special, but it sure beats 5 cents a week. I started writing something about religion (no, not my usual scorn & derision), but then noticed that the deadline was today, and this website is on a different time zone. The last thing I wanted to do was pour time & effort into something, only to have it miss a deadline. So I deleted that and looked for something else. This next one was about natural remedies for allergies. Using my previous formula, I began culling various bits of info from websites ... and then I stopped.

What if I turned it in to the publisher and they liked it? The next obvious step is that they'd want me to write a profile of myself. Do I have any educational credentials in the area of allergies? No. In fact, I have no credentials in anything, not even a Bachelor's or Associates degree. Do I have any allergies that I can write about from personal experience? No. I'm an unqualified hack. A pretender. So where do I get off writing articles about things that OTHER people are experts about? I don't deserve any money for that.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself. Am I wrong? Is it "something psychological" that makes my scruples kick in ONLY when I'm on the verge of doing something to earn money? Is my undervaluation of myself legitimate or am I just cheating myself?



PG said...

Good writing adds value to information. There are lots of writers employed basically to distill information from technical sources into something comprehensible to the average person. Lawyers to some extent do this: they wade through statutes, case law and regulations that no sane person would want to read, in order to say what the rules for a particular situation are. Some people are skeptical of using lawyer because they figure the law is there for anyone to read, but it's not easy for most people to read so much information without falling asleep, and to be able to pick out what was relevant.

That's a long way of saying, Don't sell what you're doing short.

Volly said...

I agree with what you say, but still worry about being challenged. But thank you for the encouragement, and I could probably just submit the article and wait for the publisher to ask if I'm "qualified." Leave it up to them.

Good point. Thanks.