My Week in Freelance Writing

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 4/29/2016:

  • Articles: 3
  • Total words: 1,770
  • Total hours (research/writing): 3.67
  • Dollars earned: $24.78
  • Dollars in my bank: $24.78

I’m back! It’s a small amount, but I did manage to write some articles for money this week. The experiment is not over. It won’t be over until I stop trying it, and I’m that kind of poor dumb sucker who just keeps trying, keeps on getting up after getting knocked down.

I’m not sure what the policy is on talking about what I’ve written; because they’re “works for hire”, I don’t retain any of the rights to them, and, in fact, the articles appear under someone else’s name. But in vague terms, I wrote two articles about traveling, and one About Page for a carpet store. Doesn’t sound very exciting to you? I actually enjoyed doing them. And after turning in the assignments, I got “excellent” ratings from the clients. One (the carpet store people) even added a note:

boom. mic drop.

Yeah. I nailed it.

Getting positive feedback is almost as important as getting paid. I’m making a note of this so that later, I can look back and remind myself that I’m good at this. I can write what people want to read. I’m right where I need to be, at least in this area of my life.

Writing through the distraction oh hey what’s on YouTube?

I wrote an article today. 580 words in 62 minutes, or $8.12/hour. It’s the first one I’ve written and submitted in almost 3 weeks. I’ve been sick, and distracted, and working my two day jobs, and worrying about whether I can afford to keep living in this apartment and in this neighborhood, and wondering about the future, and generally thinking about anything but writing.

But today, tonight, I made myself choose a topic on Textbroker, and did a little research, and outlined a few ideas, and then fleshed it all out, and submitted it. It’s not a lot of money, and it wasn’t a topic that’s going to set the world on fire, but it’s writing, and being paid for writing, and that’s what I think I want to do with my life.

My Week in Freelance Writing

This post got lost somehow. I know I posted it, and my Tumblr and Facebook pages both link to it, but here on, it’s no longer here. Maybe it got eaten when my host upgraded to WordPress 4.5? Anyway, here’s a reconstructed version, post-dated to the original date.

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 4/15/2016:

  • Articles: 0
  • Total words: 0
  • Total hours (research/writing): 0.0
  • Dollars earned: $0.00
  • Dollars in my bank: $0.00

Sadly I have been too busy at my day jobs to write this week, and the week prior. Also, caught a head cold last weekend which has sapped my spirit. But! I am not done with this project. I will persevere.

Feature Request for Mac OS X: replacing synonyms

I’m a writer and I’ve got a pretty big vocabulary, if I do say so myself, but I do find myself searching for the right word sometimes. I like using Mac OS X’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus for that. It’s handy, especially in 10.11 El Capitan. Just highlight a word, right-click (yes, you can do that on Mac OS X, you’ve been able to for years) and choose “Look up [word]”, and you get a nice popup that includes synonyms.

Showing the Thesaurus popup menu for the word
“Gross” is close but what’s a better choice? “Flagrant”? Yes, that’ll do nicely, thanks.

The feature has been around since at least 2006. But as handy as it is, it seems like a no-brainer to me to be able to double-click on one of the suggestions and have it replace the highlighted word. Despite me trying this almost every time, it doesn’t actually work that way. So I’m filing Radar #25533454 for it. Just for good measure, I also sent Apple a more generic Feature Request via their Feedback page.

Tour Portland’s Political Underbelly

I’m reading (well, listening to the audiobook of) Nixonland by Ron Perlstein (Amazon affiliate link) and Portland’s been mentioned as a location twice, even though I’m less than a third of the way through. First, Nixon was in a hotel here during the campaign for president Eisenhower; Nixon was the vice-presidential candidate, and there was some controversy about a slush fund, and Eisenhower was apparently pressuring Nixon to bow out. Instead, Nixon doubled down, and two days later, gave the infamous “Checkers” speech, where he deflected criticism by showing off an adorable Cocker spaniel. (To be clear, the speech was given in Los Angeles, in the El Capitan theater).

The second mention was when Nixon started a boiler-room phone bank operation here to spread misinformation about a political opponent.

That got me to wondering if I could track down the actual locations. Would it be possible to find the exact hotel room Nixon stayed in? Is the building where that phone bank was situated even still standing?

It felt like it was turning into a project that an author like Tim Powers would love, and I love Tim Powers’ work. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I imagine I would feel something like haunted, standing in a place where Tricky Dick worked his weird anti-charisma magic. Language and communication and consciousness are deeply affected by context, and that particular context is difficult for me to resist.

And that got me to thinking: what other Portland buildings, rooms, street corners hold the not-actual-ghosts of some of Portland’s infamous political history. We’ve had our share of home-grown seedy politicians.

  • Neil Goldschmidt, once a rising star of the Democratic Party, went from Portland City Commissioner and Mayor to US Secretary of Transportation under President Clinton, to state Governor. He was probably going to make a run for president, but some investigative journalism uncovered a victim of his: a woman revealed he had been her statutory rapist, back in the 1970s, during his tenure as Mayor. She had been 13 or 14 at the time.
  • Bernie Giusto, The Teflon Sherrif, had been Goldschmidt’s bodyguard but eventually rose to elected official himself as Sherrif of Multnomah County, a position he was forced out of in large part because he lied about knowledge of Goldschmidt’s rape during the state’s investigation into the matter.
  • Bob Packwood, Senator from Oregon from 1969 until he stepped down in 1992, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was discovered to have been sexually abusing and assaulting women during his political career. He’s no longer in public office, but he’s apparently doing quite well, sharing his expertise in government funding with a large number of private firms as a lobbyist.
  • Going further back, Oregon was under Federal investigation as the center of organized crime and corruption that went all the way to the statehouse. The Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management, a.k.a. the McClellan Committee, as part of their investigation into Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, found out about a plot by the Teamsters to bribe, blackmail and extort their way into power in Oregon. Recordings of conversations with Jim Elkins, a Multnomah County crime boss whose specialties were brutality and illegal gambling, were played on national television, to 1.2 million viewers, in 1957.
  • Portland Mayor Sam Adams, three weeks into his first term in 2008 and enjoying wide popularity, was accused of sexual misconduct with an intern by the name of Beau Breedlove, who had been a teenager at the time. Adams admitted to the accusation. Despite the resulting scandal, and with Beau Breedlove appearing wherever and whenever he could in the local media to remind everyone of the scandal, Mayor Adams was cleared of criminal wrongdoing and served out his full term,  retiring from public life to become the director of a non-profit devoted to climate change.
  • Then there was Police Chief Derrick Foxworth, who, in 2006, got caught via email for sending sexually explicit emails to a subordinate. He was demoted, and filed suit against his accuser, but remained employed until he retired a couple of years afterward.
  • The last truly local scandal I can recall without more research is Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, was forced to step down after his affair with a policy advisor was made public. When his emails and text messages were published he was found to have enjoyed support from the union president, too, who had known and warned Cogen about the affair a year before.

There’s a bunch more, going farther back: land fraud in 1908, Sen. Hatfield’s graft in 1984, Police Chief Harrington’s improper collusion with drug dealers in 1986. But I was specifically trying to find ones that may have ties to a Portland, or, at least, Multnomah County, location.

Portland is seen as incredibly liberal, and generally, politically, it is, but there’s another side of the coin that doesn’t get as much play. Our political leaders seem to enjoy, or maybe I should say take flagrant advantage of, our native sexual permissiveness, only to find that public opinion about that can turn on a dime.

My Week in Freelance Writing

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 4/1/2016:

  • Articles:
  • Total words: 1,496
  • Total hours (research/writing): 3.5
  • Dollars earned: $20.94
  • Dollars in my bank: $37.04

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that this “week” is short by a few days. It’s because I’m posting this early in order to sync up with the pay period of the main site I’m working on now. They pay out at midnight every Thursday, while I was preferring to end a week on Sunday. I got tired of keeping track of two different weeks, so as of today, these posts will come out on Friday.

Also, my two other day jobs got in the way of my writing this week. I was only able to complete two, and I wasted some time researching another one that I ended up returning without writing a single word, which hurt my hourly pay rate. But I’m trying to be scrupulous in accounting for my time, to see if I can get faster or better at this as I go. It’s tempting to not count that kind of unproductive “thinking about writing”, but it’s all part of the job and it keeps me focused.

Next week is already off to a good start! As a small preview, I’ve already written three articles today. Stay tuned to see my final tally!

My Week In Freelance Writing

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 3/27/2016:

  • Articles: 2
  • Total words: 1,496
  • Total hours (research/writing): 3.5
  • Dollars earned: $20.94
  • Dollars in my bank: $60.69

My secondary day job really needed me this week. I was scheduled for 36.5 hours there, and if you add in all the commute time (40+ minutes each way via train), I wasn’t able to find the time for my primary day job, or, as seen above, any writing.

I’ve been able to tell my secondary day job that I’m not available to work that many hours there, by adjusting my availability, but that won’t kick in for another week or two. They pay me the least, so an hour working there costs me time working on things I either love (writing), or time working at a higher rate of pay (my primary day job). But I still like having a fallback, a plan B, so I don’t want to give up that job just yet.

The money that actually hit my bank account this week is money I earned last week, but wasn’t available until after the work was accepted and transferred out on the weekly payday, which is every Thursday. I still have time this week to write some articles and get a nice payday next week, and I’m only scheduled for 22 hours at Day Job #2, and might not get many hours at Day Job #1, so hopefully I’ll get some time to write, too.

The experiment continues.

My Week In Freelance Writing

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 3/20/2016:

  • Articles : 6
  • Total words: 5,224
  • Total hours (research/writing): 9
  • Dollars earned: $73.14
  • Dollars in my bank: $13.85

I’ve known, vaguely, how to go about being paid for writing, but I’ve never really taken an active role in making it happen. I don’t know, I guess I’ve been scared. Fear is the little death, y’all.

A couple of weeks ago, I set out to finally, finally, start getting paid for writing. My understanding of the process involves collecting some samples of my writing, finding paying outlets, and pitching ideas to them while showing off my samples, also known as “clippings”, to potential editors and publishers.

I have this blog and it’s full of samples of my writing, but I feel a bit insecure about it all. I’ve never had a wide audience – as best as I can tell, readership peaked around 200 visitors a month several years ago, and has tapered off since I don’t update as often. But being selected by an editor carries more weight than publishing to my own site. So I decided I need to get more practice writing to someone else’s specifications.

Which led me to sign up for what are popularly known as “content mills”. I realize I’m not getting paid very much, but it’s a first step. I’m hoping that it will provide a base for me, and also help me make better contacts and get a better feel for how to pitch better-paying work.

And, honestly, as it stands now, it’s providing me nearly the same level of income as one of my current part-time jobs, with the benefit of being able to work when I want, wherever I want, wearing whatever I want, without any commute, and that’s in just 9 hours of actual research and writing time. If I could spend more time doing it, even at this level of pay, I could make more.

So here goes my adventure.

Martian thoughts about a confrontation in NW Portland

I can’t stop thinking about this post. I saw it Sunday, on /r/Portland, and read it, and lots of the comments, both from the original poster, and others arguing against him or praising his actions.

In the vast majority of those comments (827 as I post these words) I didn’t see my own thoughts reflected. But maybe my point of view is so different from those around me that they might as well be from Mars.

The OP clearly states, in the post and further comments, that he feels powerless and vulnerable. More than anything else, he wants to feel safe. From his post, he’s threatened by the man he drew on, of course, but also by the petty criminals, tweakers, and homeless people he sees all over his neighborhood. But even more so, he’s disgusted and powerless against the mayor, city government, and law enforcement.

But he’s also a man who plays by the rules. He pays his rent, and his taxes. He works within the rules of his neighborhood and building management. And, again, in his own words, he has tried to soothe that fear by buying guns. 40 of them, over the course of years; he admits to only owning 12 right now. He’s followed the law in getting a concealed handgun license (CHL), and from his words it’s clear he’s knowledgable about how and when to use deadly force.

He’s staying inside the lines, but he sees those lines being ignored by people everywhere; both the authorities, and the common citizens. So he still feels powerless, and vulnerable. And that is not a good way to feel. No one should feel that way.

And so, in the Pearl District, while he was out walking his dog, a man rode quickly past him on a bike, the OP reacted as if he’d been wounded, and a confrontation happened.

I’m glad that no one involved was physically injured or killed. I’m happy that all three of them (let’s not forget there was a dog involved, a labrador/whippet) walked away.

The reason the OP cites for not actually pulling the trigger, despite the training he received that drilled in to him the idea that he should not even draw if he is not willing to fire, despite his training to shoot to kill if he’s going to shoot at all, despite his fear being enflamed by the actions he describes, is that he was too, yes, afraid: afraid of being second-guessed by society, law enforcement, and the media.

I’m not going to second-guess him. I don’t know what happened, exactly. I am far from an expert on gun laws or even the kind of training given to those who feel the need or desire to carry a handgun. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you either know about my own feelings on the topic or you’re just a couple of clicks away from finding out. But here, that’s not my point.

In contrast to the OP’s dehumanizing language, though, I bet that the man who had a gun pointed at him also feels powerless and vulnerable. I know I’m speculating here, but it’s just for a moment, just for this paragraph. I bet that bike-riding man feels just as abandoned by society. But because of the different paths each man has taken through life, they each express that deep fear and loathing in different ways.

One goes riding through the streets of one of the richest, most developed neighborhoods in the city, screaming and yelling, ready for a fight.

The other walks his dog, a gun at his side, wishing the police or government would do something about the petty crime, ready for a fight.

We’ve alienated both of them. We need both of them, and so many more, back.

Letter to Kevin 1

Dear Kevin,

Today, the thing that made me think of you was having Queen’s “It’s Late” come up on my iPhone. You were always a fan of Queen. I remember when you told me that you liked Freddie Mercury’s music no matter what his sex life was like. That was in the mid-80s so that’s what a progressive liberal viewpoint was back then. It was all the more remarkable because you were then, and remained until you died, a generally conservative Christian, devout in your beliefs. Or maybe it only seemed remarkable to me because I had only noticed bigotry from Christians up until then.

I’ll tell you another remarkable thing about that conversation: it may be the effect of time passing, blurring and foreshortening my memories, but your comment about Freddie’s possible gayness might have been the first time I was told, or that I even considered, that he might have been gay. It wasn’t a big part of my context for him, or any celebrity, really. I didn’t think about celebrities’ sex lives. Wait. I take that back. I assumed they were straight, if I thought about it all. My privilege blinders. The only major celebrity I thought was gay was Elton John, and that’s only because my high school girlfriend, Amy, love him and knew all about him, including that fact. How did she know that? What were her sources back in 1980? Was Elton out back then? Or was it just gossip and hearsay? No internet back then, just magazines and liner notes and unauthorized biographies and talk shows. I don’t remember. I didn’t pay attention. It wasn’t important to me.

Back to Freddie. The song that kicked off this madeleine sounds to me like an apology. Freddie (or the singer, if you consider the song fictional and not autobiographical) is singing to a lover who appears to be fed up with the singer’s infidelity and wandering. It’s about pleading with a lover to stay, but being unable to promise to change. He can’t be loyal, if he’s true to himself. At least, that’s my impression of the lyrics. And thinking about the context, that he was possibly closeted, unable to be his true self in public, makes the song all the more sad.

Why am I writing about this? Why am I thinking about this song, and gay celebrities, and you, and being sad? The easy solution to why this is all on my mind and why I connect it to you would be that I’m closeted or self-denying, that I’m gay, that I loved you. Some stranger reading this, my letter to a dead person, might think all that. But as always, more context makes the picture clearer.

Of course I loved you. You were a brother to me. By blood, you were my nephew, my half-sister’s son. But an accident of timing, that put us exactly 6 years apart in age, to the day, and that my mom, your grandma, spent a lot of time at your mom’s, my half-sister’s, house, conspired to make us closer than the family tree would suggest.

You were my cheerleader. No one could motivate me like you could. No one complimented me or told me the positives they saw in me, like you did. There’s maybe 2 or 3 other people I feel completely comfortable around, as I did around you.

You and I could be on opposite sides of an issue, big ones like the existence of God, or divisive ones like taxes or crime or welfare, and we could talk it out and understand each other and not abandon the conversation in anger or frustration.

Now that you’re gone, I feel that loss daily.

If you were here now, you’d tell me… I don’t know. What would you tell me? Probably that you miss me, too. Probably that I should just write. Probably that I’m OK and that I should trust my instincts and that I just need to do what I love and it would all work out. Probably you’d make a joke about not being gay “not that it matters!” (Seinfeld reference) but that, seriously, you love me, too.

Not the same, imagining it. I’d still like to hear you say it. Will never happen again.

It’s almost like love is complicated. Love doesn’t automatically mean that sex is involved. Love is just connection, and time, and patience and understanding. And grief is all that being missing.

I remember my last day of high school, the summer of 1983, at Milwaukie High School. Everyone was going around signing yearbooks and making promises to stay in touch and feeling nervous about moving on, or losing touch with the seniors who were graduating. Fear of change. And there was a guy, a year younger than me, who was an amazing artist and incredibly funny, someone I had spent a lot of time around because we had been in Journalism class together, truly a bonding experience. And when he signed my yearbook, as he was handing it back to me, he said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but, I love you.”

I accepted that, but the thought stayed in my mind. My biggest question was, what could the wrong way be? What was his intention of the right way? Romantic love? Was it more like brotherly love? I am pretty sure I talked it over with my best friend, Terry, and the advice he gave me was, don’t worry about it, it’s a compliment. I did not feel any special romantic feelings for him. And honestly, the idea that he might possibly feel romantic, or sexual, feelings for me, more than anything else, was a giant empty space. It was beyond imagining. Confusing. A void. I filed it away as Terry suggested, a compliment.

I often feel the same way now, trying to think of someone else seeing me as attractive or sexually or even as someone to spend more time around or get to know. Even if it’s someone I acknowledge as attractive, the idea that they might return those feelings doesn’t connect. It’s a black hole, an absence. It doesn’t follow. The logic breaks, the story stops there. I worry that I’m too old to feel that again, the feedback loop of two people’s attraction looping around and intensifying until it’s all consuming. What an intense experience that can be. Can it really be gone? Is it dependent on age, on hormones, on energy and inexperience?

Sometimes I’m glad I don’t feel that, though. But not always.

But I also know that that’s not the feeling I had around you, my nephew, my brother, my closest friend. It was never passionate and enveloping and crazy-making. It was patient, and simple, and clear, and reassuring. And even now, years after you’re gone, I miss it, and I miss you. So forgive me if I write these letters you’ll never see.

I need to be who I am. You understand that, right?