So How’s the Writing Career Going?

Some time ago, I mentioned I was going to focus on travel writing. Paid writing. Since then, I have written a handful of pitches and a personal essay. I send them off with no expectation of a reply, and I’m never disappointed.

Oh, and I crafted an article for AARP. The sting of inclusion into that club reminded me of their unsolicited membership card and how it ruined my 50th birthday. Now? I find comfort in a place where age is an asset. (Dear AARP, Check out my article. I’m 57 but don’t worry. Soon I’ll be 58. Can’t wait to hit 60!)

A while ago, the CEO of a company which pairs writing assignments to writers emailed me. He had found my blog and suggested I could write content for two hot markets; Philadelphia and Budapest.

With an overwhelming sense of entitlement, I dashed off a writing sample to become a “certified” writer and therefore be entered into their system to receive assignments. A month later, I received feedback. “We did not grade your essay since you did not follow instructions. You are welcome to resubmit.”

“Instructions? For the love of Pete, there were instructions?”

My first reaction was to reply with a scorched-earth email. “Seriously, do you know who you are dealing with? The CEO contacted me directly.” The next day, calmer and more composed, I accepted they are dealing with a 57-year-old woman who has never published a piece of writing in her life and can’t follow instructions. I’m not on solid ground here.

Eventually, I reworked my submission only to receive this response: “Congratulations. You passed with a grade of C. Currently, we are sending work to A and B assessed writers, but you show promise. We suggest you rework this and resubmit.”

The specific feedback wasn’t terrible. First, I must use their required photo source (which is not PatCallahanPhotography – I am unapologetic on this one).

Second, I can never write in the first person. Ever. This was not in the instructions but rather fell under the generic heading of obvious rules for commercial writing.

Still, I considered a heat seeking missive explaining that I would never write for them or their two-bit company – not even if they begged. Which they won’t. But not even if they did.

And I asked myself, what is wrong with me? I thought about the trajectory of a career – certainly my career – and how I got to where I am.

I entered my current employer fresh out of school; a dreamer and eager to please. I never complained and pitied those who did. At first, I was the youngest member of the team, then the youngest manager. One day, with no warning, I showed up in elastic-waist pants with Dick Tracy sneakers and reported to someone 15 years my junior. (“I swear Pat. He doesn’t even shave yet.”)

How did I get here? Where did the time go? And when did I burn out and give up? Decades of the drip, drip, drip of slogging it out each day, office politics and frustrations, and I began the metamorphosis to department curmudgeon; the work equivalent of “Dear lord, I sound like my mother.”

But I always thought the curmudgeon was a jerk. My mother drove me to school with curlers in her hair, sang songs from the 40s and whipped up chocolate chip cookies – not caustic emails.

When did my options become so limited? I can suck it up, internalize the criticism and double down; send caustic emails; or…. Or what? Buy a place on a golf course and learn the game? Play canasta, bridge, pinochle?

I spent another Saturday reworking my submission. Forty-eight hours later, I received an email. “Congratulations, you received an A on your writing assignment. We will start sending you work.”

I felt insanely proud, ridiculously so – beyond any sensible reaction. And I gave myself a pep talk of sorts.

My only option is to crawl thru the muck, lose the attitude and fight the urge to give up. Nobody said any of this would be easy. Not growing older. And certainly not relearning how to dream.

Categories: Ruminations

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8 replies

  1. You are such a comedian! Lose the attitude but keep the sass!
    Gotta start somewhere!

  2. Great post. Thank you.
    I would love to see a picture of “Dick Tracy sneakers”!
    I am pleased to hear of your success and am inspired by your persistence.

    I managed to avoid the office politics the last 10 years of my career by becoming ‘a virtual employee’. (A term that I never used or accepted.)
    There are drawbacks to this; the value of hall-talk is real, but the time saved because no one ever once dropped by my home office to ‘chat’ etc. was real and valuable to me. The effort required to stay-in-touch from afar with the real motivations behind a policy implementation, procedure change, or organizational ‘re-alignment was actually very small.
    I am now retired from it all for two months, and maybe because we have been so busy with the move and settling in here but so far I don’t miss it.

    • Hey Dan… I worked in new product development where Dick Tracy shoes weren’t the worst office attire!. But I’m pretty sure my family eventually burned them.
      I am so glad you and Mirka are enjoying this phase of life. I agree with you, I don’t think I’ll miss any of it.

  3. Reported to someone who was 15 years! I was a pharmacy manager for about 20 years and then when we moved to Texas from L.A, l was over it with the corporate BS. I had a succession of young district managers, each one lasted an average of like 9! Congratulations on getting the A!

  4. Heat seeking missive is my new favorite phrase. Again, well crafted!

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