Sunday, June 30, 2013

The frustrations of writing online for pay

For the past several months, I have been on government disability due to a combination of Aspergers Syndrome (a form of autism) and attention deficit disorder (no hyperactivity), along with other health-related issues.  To make a long story short, I have determined, with the concurrence of friends and family members who know me well, that some sort of freelance writing would be a good means of supplementing my disability income.

As it happens, I have done freelance writing in the past.  Indeed, during the 1980's, I had over a dozen articles nationally published in a small publication known as "Link-Up."  My particular specialty was in the area of personal computer communications, computer bulletin board systems, etc.  (This was several years prior to the advent of the Internet as we know it today.)  Unfortunately, pressure from family members at that time compelled me to abandon freelance writing for a number of years.  They did not understand that it takes time to build up the kind of momentum needed to build a steady, livable income.

Now that I am on disability, and therefore have some financial stability to rely on, I have once more begun sallying out into the world of freelance technical writing.  I knew, of course, that the marketplace has changed somewhat over the years.  What I did not anticipate, however, was how radically that market had changed.

When, a few days ago, I stumbled on an ad from a firm called Demand Studios, offering $25 per article, I immediately submitted an application, which was approved a few days later.  I looked through a list of  possible titles for an article and selected one.  I had already gone through their introductory material, and thought I understood the kind of material that they needed.

It was not until I had already completed a first draft of an article, however, and prepared to submit it for review, that I found out how wrong I was.  Their submission process required a series of short segments of 400 to 500 words apiece, which had to be written into an online template in an almost "on-the-fly" style.  Nothing in the introductory material I had perused had given me any reason to expect this.

This was a kind of writing that I did not, and still do not, feel that I could perform to their satisfaction, or, for that matter, to my own.  I was so shocked and jarred, in fact, that I immediately emailed Demand Studios, asking them to immediately cancel my account, and deleted the article I had written from my hard drive.

As I thought over the experience, I realized that I had made a serious blunder.  I had blindly assumed that this firm wanted the kind of writing with which I was familiar.  In retrospect, I should have done more research about the company.  Then, too, I feel that their introductory material should have gone into more detail regarding the length of the articles they wanted, and the actual mechanics of their submission process.  Had they done so, I would have instantly realized that my writing style, which is more along traditional lines, was not, and most probably never would be, compatible with what Demand Studios wanted, and would not have taken up their valuable time and energy (or my own, for that matter!).

To say that I am frustrated over this experience is putting it mildly, and all the more so in view of the fact the primary blame lies solely with me.  Mind you, I'm not giving up on freelance writing--not at all.  It is clear, however, that I will have to do some research as to the current requirements of the freelance writing industry.  To that end, I will most likely be purchasing the current edition of "Writer's Market," and will peruse some current books on freelance writing, in an attempt to get more up to speed, before I sally out into this field again.  Any readers of this blog who can offer specific advice or suggestions in this regard are welcome to email me at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Book Review: "Nashville Streets & Their Stories"

Like many Americans, having reached the age of 60, I find myself becoming more and more interested in history in general, and the history of Nashville, Tennessee (my home town) in particular.  Having grown up in what is still often referred to as "the Highlands of Belle Meade," a district in the southwest area of Nashville, I have wondered more than once how some of the streets and roads in my old stomping grounds came to be located where they are, and have the names that they do.

Happily, within the last year, Ridley Wills II, one of Nashville's best-known and most respected historians, has answered many of my questions on this subject in his latest book, "Nashville Streets & Their Stories."  Some five hundred of Nashville's streets and public roads have their history explained in this work, written in a relaxed and entertaining style.

To be sure, there ARE some faults in this work.  For example, there are a number of glaring typo's (i.e., "Inquirer" instead of "ENquirer," and the year that Cheekwood was donated to the State of Tennessee is listed as "1969," when in fact it was "1959"!).  And, unfortunately, there are a number of omissions (e.g., West Tyne Boulevard and Nichol Lane; the latter, I believe, was named after my paternal grandfather, who resided in a house at the corner of West Tyne and Belle Meade Boulevards for a number of years), some of which are mentioned in passing in other listings, but are not given listings of their own!  In the case of a lesser writer, such mistakes would be considered inexcusable.  On the other hand, when one is writing a ground-breaking work such as this, some such miscues are all but inevitable.  And not all of Nashville's streets have historical information  about them as readily available as others.  Hopefully, at some future date, an updated version of this volume can be prepared and published.

Overall, in spite of the minor flaws I have just detailed, "Nashville Streets & Their Stories" would be an invaluable addition to the library of anyone who calls Nashville home, and is interested in the colorful and eventful history of Music City, USA.

"Nashville Streets & Their Stories," by Ridley Wills II.  (Franklin, Tennessee:  Plumbline Media, LLC, 2012.)  $18.95 (paperback).  ISBN:  978-1-937824-01-3.  Available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and at local bookstores and gift shops.