Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Will Write for Change

Each minute we are presented with ample opportunities to settle: we accept less than acceptable behavior in children, spouses, dates, friends, family; we justify poor service from waiters, delivery people, taxi drivers; we excuse unpleasant attitudes of teachers, coworkers, and bosses.  As we accept less from those around us we become in danger of expecting less from ourselves. 
 I was recently given the opportunity to write a children’s book for a group I enjoy working with in various creative capacities.  Because the character has no back story, I would be responsible for creating both a history and a story that engaged the wide age range of their expected target audience while delighting parents and educators.
It was an exciting project.
At once, I began sifting through the information, researching, and mentally plotting. Anxiously, I began writing.  I was well into the first chapter when the negotiations began.  This was to be my first book so when asked what terms I expected and what price I was asking, I deferred to the Writer’s Market and to the advice of my professor. The rate I proposed, according to the Writer’s Market, was average.
I am not an average writer.
I research.  I interview.  I write, revise, listen to the story and then tell a compelling story. I meet deadlines, take critiques well, I am resourceful.  I am not average.  Still, I felt comfortable recommending the average rate and terms. 
When the group said my rate was more than they expected to pay and that they thought I could use the opportunity as a stepping stone that put some extra money in my pocket, I politely thanked them for thinking of me and agreed that they should research other opportunities.
 I realize opportunity does not often knock on one’s door. 
I am a single mother raising three children, I work full-time, I write in my spare time and research job opportunities when I should be sleeping.  Extra income is always welcome.
But, at what cost?
There are, at this moment, at least ten things I could be doing, though I am at my desk doing the one thing I should be doing—the rest will keep at least another thirty seconds. Between being a mom, working full-time, recently completing graduate school, looking for other jobs, finding time to write, finding time for friends and pursuing new relationships, I don’t have a lot of time to waste. Each moment should be wrung of all its possibilities—so, are the opportunity “to get my name out there” and a “little pocket change” worth making time for?
Yes and No.
I can’t afford to turn down money, but I owe it to myself, my children and my myriad of responsibilities to exercise good judgment and time management. I won’t do a project and put only a sliver of effort into it, miss deadlines or skip a revision because something else is paying more.  I face each project as if it is as significant as the next, and it is—my name is going on it.
I owe it to myself, my school, my clients, my readers—but, mainly to myself—to write like my pen is on fire.
I expected to feel guilty over this project--or the lack of this project. And, if I believed it were my last opportunity to be recognized as a writer, maybe I would.
I don’t. 
This project was not mine; it was the opportunity to write someone else’s character, to help someone else fulfill their dreams and to lace flesh onto someone else’s skeletal frame.  And though I would have written the story like it was my very own, it was not my literary baby.
The stories I am meant to tell are those that incite me to action, inspire me to learn, infuse me with voice. I am excited about writing relationships, the psychology of them and how characters influence their plots in fiction and nonfiction. I write of compromise and triumph, of sacrifice and strength.  There are many such stories to be told.  There were be opportunities to write pieces that motivate people to act on social change, opportunities to write articles that empower people to take control of their stories, opportunities to write stories my soul longs to tell.
Perhaps that is why I do not mourn the passing of this opportunity—the story I was going to collect pocket change to write could cost me more in the end than it is worth. 

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