The Freelancer’s Journal: Tales from the Writing Trade (No. 2)

Versatile Writer for Hire:
Never at a Loss for Words

August 19

Business has been slow lately. My last job was a best man’s speech for a guy from Long Island whose brother was getting married. His only instructions to me were: “I wanna see tears.” . . . You don’t have to dig too deep to find the gold in this man—it’s all right there on the surface . . . Let me tell you something about Dave: He doesn’t believe in half measures, or taking the middle ground. Whatever he does, he does it full throttle or not at all.

Four straight days over 95. Worst heat wave all summer. It’s miserable—especially in this place, with no windows in the living room. It must be ten degrees hotter inside. I live right above two restaurants, soul food and Chinese. Sometimes the bathroom smells like roast pork. It’s like living in the belly of a pig . . . Roaches everywhere—on the soap, under the sink. I took down a shelf in the bathroom and unscrewed the brackets; beneath one there were two dead roaches frozen in copulation, one mounted on top of the other.

August 22

I get a lot of inquiries from people who think they have a story to tell, but don’t have the words to tell it. Some of these people have genuinely moving stories, full of sadness and loss. But after hearing so many of these tales, it’s hard not to be cynical. These people never have any money, yet they’re all passionately convinced that their story is so amazing it will make a big splash, and then we can split the profits that will surely roll in. I get so many calls like that.

I politely explain that I operate, without exception, on a straight fee basis—cash paid for time worked. Still, I see the pathos in their stories, and I appreciate that they’re coming to me with a degree of urgency, if not desperation. They’re at the point where all they have left is their own story; all their hopes are riding on it. Before we ever meet, they’ve decided the written word is their best shot at redemption, yet it’s beyond their grasp. They need my words—or some writer’s words—to realize their dreams.

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