50 thoughts on turning 50 #27: Writing for free

I'm many things, but a doormat isn't one of them.

I’m many things, but a doormat isn’t one of them.

I was contacted recently by a website looking for someone to write three, 500 word articles a week, for $20 an article.

I considered it. Sixty dollars a week – or $240 a month – would be helpful right now, especially since after taking a long creative break my monthly writing income is smaller than the weekly allowance for most American teenagers.

In the end, I decided that it wasn’t enough money to justify the time I would need to spend writing the articles. And while I would retain the copyrights and could resell the articles, I’m not writing in that genre any more so I wouldn’t have a ready market for reprints.

Too much work, not enough money.

This was on my mind this morning when I read this great piece by Revolva and her offer from the Oprah Winfrey folks to perform at Oprah’s “The Life You Want” tour - for free. (Really, Oprah?)

Back when I was covering entertainment for Christian and community publications, my writing income ran the gamut from several hundred dollars an article to next to nothing. And sometimes nothing.

I hear a lot from people who criticize writers who write for free. It devalues your talents, they tell me, and they’re right. But every once in a while, I’d have a legitimate reason to give away a reprint or pen a new piece for no financial compensation. I considered it a sort of tithe, a sacrificing of my gifts for the benefit of someone else.

The key was that I made the decision to offer my services – often to a local band that needed a press kit bio, and always when it was someone I respected, believed in and wanted to see achieve their goals.

When it came to publications? Almost never. I wrote for cheap – and I mean super cheap – for publications that had almost no budget. And I wrote for lovely compensation from publications that had the budget to pay and me happily did so. But when it came to publications with lots of money who offered me nothing? No way. Continue reading

Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween candy YouTube challenge – and some thoughts on bad parenting

Halloween was only a few days ago, and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel issued his annual challenge to viewers: take a video of the reactions your kids give when you tell them you ate all of their Halloween candy.

I admit that it’s pretty funny to see the look of disbelief on the faces of these kids. But as I watched kid after kid after kid throw temper tantrums, I was left with one thought.

What the hell is wrong with parents? Continue reading

50 thoughts on turning 50: #26 What is Christian music and why do you care?

I amassed quite the collection of CDs over my years covering Christian music, most of which just collects dust.

I amassed quite the collection of CDs over my years covering Christian music, most of which just collects dust

I was contacted recently by a new Christian music magazine about maybe doing some writing for them. I admit I was tempted enough to ask for more information. I miss my artist friends. I miss my publicist friends. I miss my fellow music writing friends. I need the money.

But then I saw this post today about TobyMac, and it reminded me of the reasons why I stopped writing about music and entertainment.

I don’t miss the bullshit.

Is TobyMac singing about the Illuminati? Who knows. Who cares. Do you like his music? Then listen. If not, then don’t. If listening to a song that may or may not be about the Illuminati is dangerous to your faith, then the problem isn’t TobyMac. The problem is that your beliefs are so shaky that they can be wavered by a guy wearing a t-shirt with an eyeball on it.

I wrote the following post back in 2009 for a website called Wrecked For The Ordinary. I share it as part of my 50 Thoughts On Turning 50 series because I learned a lot of lessons in my years covering Christian music. Mostly that there’s no such thing as Christian music, because music can’t be Christian. It’s music.

Or maybe I’m just an idiot. I certainly heard that often enough.

But what I learned, at least by the time I got to writing the essay that follows, is that my faith is not a commercial product, and when you strip away all of the extraneous bullshit, you get … well, God. Faith. The wonder of Creation. No Jesus fish stickers required.

In the end, I didn’t pursue the offer to write for this new magazine, in no small part because every time I asked what the assignment paid, they avoided the question. That’s because in the Christian genre, writers are often expected to write for free, because, you know, it’s about Jesus and all, and you should just do it for the Lord.

But that’s another story for another day.

* * * * * * **

What Is Christian Music And Why Do You Care?
(This originally ran in 2009 on the website Wrecked For The Ordinary.)

I once wrote a post on my blog at Beliefnet.com in which I threw out this joke:

“You might be a Christian music fan if you didn’t let your kids listen to the Jonas Brothers until you found out they were Christians. But you did let your kids listen to David Archuleta until you found out he was Mormon.” Continue reading

Introducing Rochester Night & Day

rochester day and night header

I love blogging, but sometimes it gets lonely blogging alone. I do blog as part of a team at Patheos, but I don’t actually see other bloggers or even interact with them in person. I prefer to write alone, but I work best when I have human contact every once in a while.

So I’m really happy to announce a project that I’ve been working on with local writer Rachel Leavy: Rochester Day & Night, a blog about the city where we live and write.

Yay!

We’re not fancy web designers and right now we’re working out the kinks in the blog, but we’re both excited to write about the things we love and the places that inspire us – and even rant about some of the stuff that just ticks us off. We’ve got a great guest blogger, who goes by the pseudonym Ms. Red, who’ll take you on an underground trek through the city’s bar bathrooms, complete with lots of sass and snark.

I hope you’ll take some time to check out intro blog posts from both me and Rachel. Leave a comment, share a thought, or suggest a story. If it has to do with Rochester, we’re interested!

 

Potty mouthed princesses, feminism, and my own little rant

You never know what’s going to show up in your Facebook timeline, and this week it was a video of young girls dressed as princesses dropping the f*bomb for feminism.

Angry young girls. With big f*ing attitudes.

The video is a series of rants about sexist society and a potty-mouthed call for better treatment of women.

Oh, and it’s also a promo to sell t-shirts for a group called FCKH8.

It’s a charged rant, with little girls throwing out the word f*ck repeatedly for two and a half minutes. They make some good points, pointing out issues like pay inequality and rape. But there are some problems with this kind of video.

Oh, so many problems.

First, the use of such a charged word actually distracts from the issue at hand. People are talking about children swearing, not inequality. It reminds me of the story about how Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined the bloomer revolution and started wearing the scandalous “pants” that showed their ankles. When people started focusing on their clothing instead of voting rights, they went back to their more restrictive and traditional dress in order to keep the focus on the most important goal.

Don’t get me wrong; I like a good curse word as much as the next sailor. But swearing doesn’t make you strong. It just makes you shocking. And that shock value is being exploited in a video rant with a lot of accusations but no solutions. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Second, the object of the accusations about inequality of women is the vast and anonymous “society”. Yes, women often earn less than men for the same job. Yes, rape and date rape are serious issues. Yes, there are issues of inequality. But I think the issue of respect for women is often a “do as I say, not as I do” problem. Because I think if women respected themselves more, “society” would follow suit.

Women want men to see them as more than pretty princesses in need of rescue, and the girls rant that society teaches that boobs and butts are more important than brains. But I’d argue that women teach that, by participating, for example, in shows like “The Bachelor” and related spins offs, like “Dating “Naked”. If women started respecting themselves, we might see a change in the way “society” views us. We might see women who begin to believe that they are not the sum of their body parts, but instead complete spiritual, emotional, creative – and powerful – beings.

Feeling exploited as a women? Cancel your subscription to “People” and “Cosmo”. Stop deifying celebrities - and strive to become a society that erases from its vocabulary words like “Kardashian”.

Third, women have reduced motherhood to a dirty word, but the reality is that the future of humankind literally depends on women’s ability to reproduce. Talk about power. And that power includes the decision to not reproduce. Without women, humans would disappear. If you’re alive, you can thank a woman for that. So rather than treating men and women as biologically equal, it might be time for women to claim that power and flaunt it. Yup, I can lead a company - and grow a human being inside of my own body. Equal? Puleeze. Try and exist without us, men.

Fourth, this is going to be my own little rant: ladies, stop complaining about how fucking hard your life is. A group of women used modern technology to create a business, and then a video containing explicit language, and aired it publicly on the internet. Tell me, how is that female oppression? In what way was their opportunity to do that thwarted by male domination? How, exactly, did “society” silence them?

The reality is that in America, women enjoy rights that millions of other women around the globe would die for. DO die for. Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her bravery, after being shot in the face by the Taliban – because she wanted to go to school. She did it without some ranting video exploiting cursing children for shock value. She simply stood up for what was right.

And got shot in the face. And then she stood up some more.

You want “society” to change the way it treats women? Women, start behaving as if you deserved respect. Start being better role models for young girls by putting your actions into motion every day, instead of just your mouths. Set the bar higher, and behave in a way that demands that men behave like gentlemen. Stop bitching about what other people do and don’t do, and instead get up every morning, look in the mirror, and roar.

You already have the power. Use it.

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Recharging my creative batteries at the Irish pub

Sitting at a local Irish pub and writing.

Sitting at Barry’s Old School Irish Pub and writing.

As a writer, the biggest thing I struggle with is staying motivated. Working from home, I’m easily distracted by things that need to be done in the house, by the dogs, by Netflix. If I pack up my stuff and go someplace else to work, I often forget files I need or simply go blank sitting in the coffee shop.

Part of my problem is just not feeling comfortable out among people. Writing is such a personal thing, too intimate an act for a public venue. I’m comfortable at home, but retreat into my shell. I’m out of my shell in public, but my thoughts are often too shy to leave my brain and meet the page. I feel like, if I’m writing in public, I should be creating something worthy of public scrutiny, when really I may simply be musing on my blog about reality TV or cats.

It’s like wearing a mink coat and then having everyone realize that underneath you’re still in your pajamas.

Today, I’m at Barry’s Old School Irish Pub, in the village of Webster, NY. While researching my Irish ancestry, I got involved with the Irish American Cultural Institute (IACI), a group focusing on Irish cultural heritage – movies, literature, history. They’ve been welcoming and kind, and very patient with my endless questions and novice knowledge of my fairly recently discovered ancestry. I’ve been working with Barry’s owner Danny Barry on some social media for the IACI, and immediately fell in love with his little village pub.

While I’ve always been enamored of my Italian heritage, it’s been my Irish genealogy that’s connected with my soul. As I’ve waded through old records and documents, I’ve met my great, great, great grandparents and researched their journey from Ireland to Massachusetts, putting together pieces of the family puzzle, and immersing myself in my blue collar, mill working, large family.

I can feel the Irish blood pulsing through my veins.

So today, I sit at a corner table in this small bar, Irish music playing over the speakers, the owner’s wife and mother among the employees behind the counter, baking and cooking and laughing and singing. When I asked if it was OK for me to hang out and write (Danny had already told me it was, but I hate being in the way), they not only welcomed me but told me to take the cozy corner table, with the padded seats and bright window light. They said it was the best place to work, and assured me that I wouldn’t be in the way of the lunch crowd.

They’ve refilled my coffee, chatted away, and given me updates on the delicious treats as they come out of the oven. And for the first time in a while, I’m able to write. Maybe it’s the mournful bagpipes mingling with the scent of fresh pumpkin bars, the laughter of the family dancing with the fiddle, or just the warmth both physical and spiritual. But I’m eager to fill the blank page with words, to once again open a vein and bleed on a page, to be creatively naked in public.

Where’s your favorite place to recharge your creative batteries?

 

High school student turns the tables on bully with Positive Post It Day

In my continuing search for ways that people really love their neighbors, I stumbled on this story about a high school student in Alberta, Canada who is the catalyst for “Positive Post It Day.”

When a fellow student posted a hateful comment on Caitlin Prater-Haacke’s Facebook page, telling her to die, Caitlin turned the tables on the bully. She created post it notes with positive messages and posted them – on every student’s locker in the entire school.

The administration didn’t see the love, though, and reprimanded Caitlin for what they considered littering the school.

Fortunately, the city of Airdrie saw the beauty in what Caitlin did and passed a resolution for Positive Post It Day.  As Mayor Peter Brown says, “Positive begets positive.”

Consider taking time today to write a positive note to a friend, family member, or colleague.