weekend update  

3.26.2007 : 7:44 PM :
every time i've quit a job, something better and much happier has come along. i'm a big quitter, what of it? i'm not a huge believer in sticking something out just because it's stable and might be good for society. then again, that type of thinking has led me to leave a slew of unfinished things in my life -- namely college. but hey, why quibble?

one month ago i was slugging it out at a mortgage place, waking up early, taking lunch time naps in my car. then i quit, threw myself into various projects -- few which came to actual fruition -- but i was having fun. and then just as i thought i would have some time to do nothing, i jumped into working for hong in la.

then i found out that my book's been doing not so bad and i'm getting paid more on it. then i found out that another book proposal "shows promise" and i have to rewrite it asap. if this second book proposal works out, i can write off subscriptions to us magazine and glamour magazine.

you know how sometimes you know that the next seven days of your life could be pretty big in determining the future? like you're about to go one way or the other and this is the week that'll decide it? that's this week for me.

good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.

my agent, my (love) life  

3.21.2007 : 5:43 PM :
lilly likes to talk about meeting somebody's representative when you're dating. it's a phenomenon everybody knows about. for the first few dates you get the best of somebody. they're nicely groomed, well behaved, attentive, funny, and interesting. after a few dates however, the representative fades and the real person shines through.

this is also known as the "honeymoon period" if the dating turns into a relationship. after six months of dating the representative, you suddenly wake up one morning to an entirely new person. surly, forgetful, stubborn, unkempt, totally useless, and not what you signed up for. you feel duped. the nice guy is suddenly an ass, etc.

here's the thing, we all have our representative but what we really need is an agent.

what would a relationship agent do? well, what does a real agent do? they go out to find you deals and then they set the terms to those deals. they'll lay out what's expected, what you can live with, what you can live without, what you can and can't stand. the representative hooks'em, the agent books'em; and gives them the lowdown.

no dump clause? let's talk about it. a twenty-four hour moratorium after fights? put it in the contract. no contact with exes? sign here please. a romantic dinner at least once a week? date night on thursday? big celebrations on valentine's day? check, check, let's re-visit last one.

see how this would work? once you have an agent set your standards for success, both parties are free to enjoy each other within pre-approved guidelines. no more surprises, no more stunning revelations. when in doubt, refer to the contract. does anyone not like this idea?

the only question is, would you have to have another person as your agent? or could you represent yourself? i'd assume it'll be better to have third-parties represent both people, but then you have to kick out a fee. but isn't 10-15% worth a happy future?

the math of writing  

3.14.2007 : 12:08 AM :
have you ever tried being a freelance writer? ok, me neither. but it's not a pretty world out there. ever heard anyone say "oh, a writer eh? that must be very lucrative!" nobody says that because writing's not lucrative -- freelance or otherwise. barring great skill, luck, or both, a budding writer is looking at minimum wage or less. many successful writers/poets subsist on grants and awards -- meaning free money -- or teaching. writers love to teach; or they have to teach.

i read that back in the day, $1 a word was customary for a professional writer. maybe not customary, but not unusual for a reputable magazine or newspaper. that rate now? still a dollar a word -- or less, nevermind inflation. actually, to get to the $1 per word mark you'd have to be an experienced writer working for a well established entity. otherwise $1 would be your pipedream. your community newspaper probably pays ten cents a word. newspapers? 35-cents or so. glossy magazines? maybe 50-cents a word. when they say "don't quit your day job," they're probably talking to writers.

of course, fifty-cents a word could seem pretty good. i mean, words are cheap; a few extra "an's" or "the's" here and there and you've made a few bucks. but no. usually a normal sized article is what? a thousand words? that's five hundred dollars for one article. not bad until you consider how much effort might go into researching, writing, and polishing that piece. i have friends who make more than $500 during a lunch break.

that's not to mention actually getting someone to offer you an article to write. heck, i'd probably pay companies to let me write for them. so, even at one article per week at market rates, you're barely making any gravy; nevermind putting dinner on the table.

am i complaining? no. i'm just in awe of people who hustle and have enough persistence, talent, and know-how to make a living as a freelance writer (freelance anything really). it's amazing to me because the math just doesn't seem to add up. actually, i don't get how some people support a family, have kids, a car, a house and all that while making $12/hour. so really, i'm easily befuddled by the world of personal finance.

for the record, on my book, i made maybe about 20-cents a word. i feel like that's kind of high. so really i've already been overpaid. great, i've already peaked as a writer. perhaps i should consider blogging for three-cents a word?
a piece of universal advice when writing is: "don't use a ten-dollar word when the fifty-cent one will do." that should be changed to "charge at least fifty-cents a word, or starve."

issues vs baggage  

3.09.2007 : 9:48 PM :
over dinner a few weeks ago, we were speaking about one of our friends and it hit us that he tends to date girls with baggage. another friend at dinner tends to date girls with issues, but rarely baggage. so what's the difference? let's clarify.

first off, everyone has issues. there are certain personality issues we're born and bred with. insecurities, extreme ego, emotional roller coaster, inability to open up, what have you. these are par for the course. when we speak about "issues," we can usually break it down to a girl having one major issue that prevents a happy, healthy, relationship. for example, when you speak about that girl (hopefully an ex at this point), what would you say? if she's defined as "the crazy chick" or "the super jealous one," that's her issue.

now baggage, that's something a person drags around with them. the first type of baggage is literal. got kids? got an ex-husband? baggage. ex-boyfriends or an unrequited best friend lover is also baggage. in addition, typical negative lifestyles also count as baggage. inveterate cheater and can't stay stay faithful? that would qualify as baggage. basically, the line i'm looking for between issues and baggage is if it can be fixed -- hypothetically. you can't fix having a child, being divorced, or being caught red-handed cheating. those are now hard facts in your relationship case file. they are red flags that aren't going away.

everything else falls into the issues category, or some blend of both. for example, a gambling problem, issue or baggage? a little of both i'd say. the gambling debt is baggage, the issue behind it might be an addictive/destructive personality. super flirty and likes to make all the guys pay attention to her -- much to your chagrin? issue. can't get along with your friends? issue. a friend likes to declare his undying love for her every six months? baggage. likes to give people the silent treatment (because she can't express her anger)? issue. had an abusive relationship in the past? issue and baggage. never been in a "real" relationship? ooh, tough one. i'd say it's baggage about to lead into issues once you date her. see how this works?

so, given the choice, which one would you date? or also, which one do you tend to date? some of us are fine dating girls with issues, some of us prefer baggage. which dating catastrophe do you prefer?

note: of course this issues versus baggage applies to guys too. of course. it takes two to make a relationship bomb.

lies my students told me  

3.07.2007 : 9:42 PM :
i recently got the chance to teach a class for about a week. of course, the "students" in the class were paid to be there and the subject matter wasn't nearly as scintillating as i would have liked -- unless you think student loan consolidation is real excitinig -- but i tried to make it as fun as possible. take it from me, i've been to plenty of new hire orientations and despite varying levels of personal interest, i do my best to pay attention.

but some of these kids -- mainly eighteen to twenty three or so -- were yawning, not looking at their materials, staring at me with a blank look for four hours, saying nothing, and not really looking like they were into it at all. this is on the first day of a potential job for them. the training was deemed "too intense" for some. trust me, my training session was hardly intense. but when half the class doesn't have the ability to properly learn, take notes, or succeed in a classroom environment, i can see why i suddenly looked like a standout in the training sessions i've been a part of.

it seemed like it was shocking to some that i was expecting people to retain this information for later use. by the end of the week, i was just trying to break things down to the very basics. we're talking apples and oranges and red fish blue fish here. but for some of the participants, that was still too much. and then they go home and don't study! whatever happened to impressing your potential employer?

i would like to think that this experience gave me some insight into the plight of our teachers. first, as a teacher, you have to fight the idea that you can make a difference in every student's life. half the class won't pay attention to you, one quarter isn't smart enough to keep up, and the remaining quarter are rapt and smart enough but maybe they have another issue that prevents them from fully connecting with the material. the best thing you can hope for is ten-percent of the class being ideal students.

of course, isn't it a teacher's job to reach that other ninety-percent? isn't that why they make the big bucks? in reality, as hard as teachers try, i think overwhelming pessimism and the toil of teaching will wear on them; forcing them to just concentrate on the really great or really terrible students.

i don't know anyone who has lasted in teaching for more than a few years; unless it's been at the elementary school level. now i know why. really, teaching a group of kids is just a mind numbing experience. and it's not that rewarding despite what we're led to believe. you're saying the same stuff over and over again -- imagine your eighth grade history teacher, who had to go over the same material five times a day, for years on end -- and soon you just want someone in the class to catch on so you can get to the end of the chapter.

it was, in some ways, a demoralizing experience. no wonder students get left behind. they shoot themselves in the foot. i had no idea the value of study skills. i guess super camp really did work for me.

you kill time, then it kills you  

3.05.2007 : 11:11 PM :
i'd always envied those people who rushed around every minute of the day attending meetings, accomplishing tasks, running errands, and generally being over-involved and crazy busy. i didn't envy their life, i just envied the fact that they had things to put into their planners.

see, i love planners. i like to pretend i have a life and day planners have quite the appeal for me. i love writing down to-do lists, knowing full well that i probably won't end up finishing even half the things i put down. mundane tasks such as "go get mail" was just as important as "finish homework." as long as i could schedule a life, i felt like i was being productive.

for that reason (among many others), college was great. there was always someplace i had to be. meet people to hang out, dance practice, culture show stuff, fellowship, dinners, the occassional class or job. my planner was my constant companion and it was full of useless tasks that invariably went unaccomplished. i felt good. i even kept my planner so i could look back upon each day with pride.

fast forward to now. throw in a 9-5 job and suddenly adding in even two weekly social commitments kills your time. weekends are for playing, week days for recovering and one event or two per week is quite a lot. of course, some super-humans even have the time to volunteer, work out, have side jobs, start families, and get graduate degrees at night. yes, we hate these people.

my dad volunteered to get me a handspring right when i finished college. i figured this would be the greatest organizational tool ever. an electronic day planner with a stylus? awesome. instead i used it mostly to play tetris on the subway. i don't think i've had a dedicated day planner since, since any obligations i've had could be easily rememebered in my head -- and then subsequently forgotten.

over the years, i've resorted to using my calendar to keep careful track of friends' birthdays; presumably to stay on top of people's lives once a year, but mostly to give my calendar a sense of purpose and worth. it's important your calendar doesn't feel neglected. this is one case where quantity surely trumps quality.

since quitting the job two weeks ago, i've committed to, or am about to commit to, about five new things. some of them involve blogging for sites other than this one, some of them are time commitments, some of them involve little personal projects, some of them were simply thrust upon me (taxes, etc). now i find my brain filled with a constant flurry of things i have to do, check lists i could now create, tasks that must be accomplished by a certain date.

of course, true to form, i find myself spending most of my day figuring out the best way to integrate outlook, backpack, google calendars, google apps, and the traditional sticky notes into a well oiled machine. meanwhile i've accomplished nothing today. i didn't even remember to get the mail.

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