These days, if you want to write anything, including just your ordinary diary, like the one you maybe did in high school, you use a plethora of different writer’s tools. It could be a few specialist sites or writer-oriented applications. Usually both. I just did a quick check - only on the web browser, I use the most I have ten extensions or prominently bookmarked writer’s tools sites. And that does not include the eternally amusing Google Translate (although I must admit they are constantly working to improve it). It includes all you can imagine, grammar and spell checkers, web-clippers, the clarity of your text checkers, and so on. The applications that include special note-taking programs, Evernote, an array of text processors I don’t dare even count.
And here is, with that prophetic Kraftwerk song “Man-Machine” coming to mind, where the question arises, when do such tools, any and all of them take over your work and start to dominate, and should you trust them blindly?
I remember almost twenty years ago when a group of us, good friends who work together, sat in what is euphemistically called around here “a coffee shop” when a friend said he was working on an app that would be a random generator for political speeches. It must have been that “incidental smoke”, but whatever example he would put out, it would sound incredibly hilarious and incredibly realistic. Basically, all the phrases his generator came up with were incredibly nonsensical and sounded like something you heard on the news a few seconds ago.
In essence, any and all of these writer’s tools are incredibly useful and can still make an incredible mess of your work too. And here is where Bruce Springsteen comes to mind with his “where’s that human touch” (I’m paraphrasing his lyrics, although I have at least two bookmarks for lyrics sites).
Of course, you should use these tools. Actually, it is a must. But then, in the end, it is your approximation of truth, reality, fiction fantasy or whatever you are presenting…
You see, that grammar checker might just as well miss something, or even withhold something until you pay that $9.99 per month… And it will definitely warn you of something like these three dots I keep insisting on. All these sites, programs, apps, they fit quite well with that famous James Brown quote (from one of those quote sites) when asked about his influence on other musicians playing funk: “I taught them everything they know, but not everything I know”.
And yes, I will run this text through one of those checkers before I post it. But I’ll certainly keep these dots around. They’re mine. I want them there.
Like most of the things you run into when searching for something else, last night I ran into the “Classic Albums Sundays” site and found out that they have a special presentation of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” album. It even includes a live listening session and discussion in Amsterdam.
Of course, it would not only b great to be able to be present, but even more so, to write about something so great like the “A Love Supreme”album. There’s something to be inspired by!
But then, what if it is not Coltrane, or that novel or short story that has been simmering somewhere in that still secret file, or special notebook and you still have to write? What if it is that “special, extraordinary” new washing machine model you know or care nothing about, but brings in the much needed cash? What is inspiring about that?
Initially, it seems - nothing. Probably the less inspiring thing to write about would be somebody else’s dirty laundry that is to go into that washing machine.
But there is, or to be more precise, there can and should be. And it is not only because you need that money or you might need a new washing machine at some point after all.
The inspiring thing i should be that you are writing about it. Writing itself should be the inspiring elements. Have in mind that this is something you have always wanted to do and somebody is (or at least, should) paying you for it; somebody really needs that washing machine right now and it might be your words that will help him out.
And then, also, no matter how much you like Coltrane or want to write that novel of yours - this might not be the right moment to write about them, or the real inspiration, no matter how much you want it to be there, simply isn’t.
Not inspired by the washing machine? Thing about the fact that you are writing about it. You can always put on “A Love Supreme” and get inspired.
Testing, testing testing. Any more (sometimes even less) self-respecting freelance, writing site (of any kind) will have a test of some shape or form for aspiring writers trying to join.
As a freelance writer, there are two ways you can approach this through song: the more famous way, with The Beatles “I’m So Tired” or the less famous from the Seventies American female duo The Roches, “Keep On Doing”.
Not only is the first song solution more famous, it is also very tempting - you’ve done so much, studied so much, put in so much effort, and you are still being tested, reminding you of all those fourth grade spelling tests… And not only that, they keep on asking you for sample work “done for a better known outlet”, as if you would be there, being tested, if you are already have ‘ample’ published work for a “known outlet”.
But, although the second song solution is neither so famous nor attractive, it is probably the way to go. First of all, most of the sites or organisations requesting that you be tested want to be sure they are getting writers that fit their criteria. Even though you might not like it, or you do not see it fit, it is a certain criteria and will probably offer you a better chance of getting respectable jobs. If you get in, of course.
One more thing - you are getting to write and/or research. And this time not only are you practicing, your writing has a definite purpose. As an extra incentive, some outlets pay you for doing the test. You don’t mind getting paid, do you?
Submitting sample work should not be the thing to worry you. Even if the work you have published might not be for the most known site or organisation around, if it is good, it will be taken into serious consideration.
What should you take care of is that resume or cover letter (usually both) that you will have to submit. Stay away, but always from a generic letter, one that is not tailored specifically for the organisation that you are applying to. Of course they don’t know what letter you submitted to another outlet. But, they have seen so many of those that they will instantly know whether it is one you already submitted somewhere else or you whether you took in their specifics.
If you don’t respect that, you might be rejected, no matter how ell you do their test. And then, just “Keep on Doing It”. Consider the alternatives.
To learn more about me, please check my LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/profile/preview?locale=en_US&trk=prof-0-sb-preview-primary-button.