Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The work I do

It occurred to me while responding to comments the other day that I don't talk much about what I actually do for work. So, the short version of my business model:

Fiction. Much as I would love to write fiction full-time, it's simply not feasible right now. But I do write it as faithfully as I can (which means mornings before the son rises, unless I'm on a tight deadline). I'm currently working on the fourth draft of a novel, what I hope will be the last draft before I polish and submit.

Journalism. Next to fiction, I love telling stories about real-world issues. Going in-depth and exploring lots of different aspects in a story is fun and informative; I learned a lot about democracy, for instance, this past month while researching an article about the FY06 proposed federal budget and its expected impact on law enforcement agencies. Yes, democracy. As in, how it's supposed to work, especially now that the Internet practically gift-wraps the information for us. But that's a rant for another day.

About the law enforcement agencies, I specialize in public safety issues. I write for public safety trade magazines about a wide range of topics. Which brings me to...

Public relations. Much of my work for trades involves making their advertisers look good. However, it's all designed to help public safety professionals do better jobs keeping us safe, so I don't feel particularly "taken" by corporate America.

I also do PR work in the more traditional sense of the term: I write material to which other people's names are attached. It's humbling, really, to apply yourself to work for which you'll never be able to claim credit. The money makes it worth it.

Miscellaneous money-makers such as professional editing and critiquing. Although I believe money should always flow to a writer, ultimately, it's the writer's choice whether s/he pays for a critique and an edit prior to submitting a manuscript. Some writers don't have access to writers' groups, and some have no time, even for online groups. Some are paranoid that others will steal their work. Yet they have stories to tell, and professional editors/critiquers provide a measure of safety. I wouldn't do it for myself, but I can relate. I try just to provide the best critiques I can.

What do all these jobs have in common? Besides providing income, they give me hope. A lot of crap happens in our world. A lot of bad people exist making bad things happen, and they make the news more often than all the good people making good things happen. My job shows me those good people in so many different ways:

Writing, and editing and critiquing, fiction helps me make sense of the bad things.

Journalism provides a counterpoint, a factual why, for the bad things, and introduces me to people trying to change them.

PR shows me people trying to make others' lives better. Hospital architects who think a lot about how to make patients safer and more comfortable; software vendors who think a lot about how to make cops safer and more efficient, so they in turn can make the public safer.

It sounds cheesy as heck, and I'm sure a few eye-rollers are thinking hospitals are only meant to inflict pain and cops are only meant to harass and you, Mrs. Freelance Mother, must be a sadist at heart. Well, maybe. But I'm a hopeful sadist. And couldn't we all use a little more hope?


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