The last time we spoke about the life and times of the freelance article writer, said coterie of dashingly hip and savvy minded scribes were flying through F. Scott Fitzgerald’s West Egg in a white Rolls Royce convertible. Do you remember the jazz band? The Fox Trot? The effervescent bubbly? No, of course not. It was all a dream.
If freelancers were forced to wear their own version of a Scarlet Letter, it wouldn’t be an A like Hester Prynne is made to wear in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel. It would probably be a B, for BUM, or an S for SLACKER. Or just cut to the chase and brand freelancers as BS (you get the idea).
Hey, hey, hey, why this Debbie Downer tone, you ask. Well, the holidays are here, and writers can bet their blue chips (if they had any) that they’re going to have to answer the Stasi-like questioning of some half-estranged uncle, distant cousin, or old high school friend who’s still grunging it up in flannel and playing darts for drinks in the local bar.
“So, what is it that you do again?”
Saying you’re a writer is too vague. Saying you freelance is often met with glassy eyes, a vacant stare and a mouth set to catch flies. An internet content creator? Um, ok, it depends how much detail you really want to get into with an old friend you have nothing in common with. Editing and writing services?
In the end, however, it might not matter what you say as some people simply equate writing with a carefree and laid-back lifestyle that verges on unemployment. You’re not a lawyer, doctor or a corporate raider, and as you endure this snarky and condescending interrogation, you wish those dashingly hip scribes would pull up in their convertible Rolls Royce and orchestrate a quick jailbreak.
But you love your career choice and earn your keep, and writer mode starts to kick into overdrive. How do you handle criticism, interrogation and a misplaced Scarlet Letter? With words, of course. Here’s what you do:
1. Tell them you’re a critic. Hit them with a scathing and merciless evaluation of their lifestyle, preferably one that ends with the type of fist-a-cuffs that Hemingway and Charles Bukowski would be proud of.
2. Start tossing internet/computer lingo around like you’re dropping KEYWORDS. “Search Engine, What?” says the look on their face.
3. Have a histrionic pity party, declaring all you want for Christmas is rent $$$.
4. Ask if they can set you up with two months of couch surfing.
5. Esoteric pop culture and literary references shut people up in a hurry.
6. For example, start talking like you’re in a Whit Stillman film.
7. The extreme always seems to make an impression. Cast off the Scarlet Letter, that B or S or whatever it is and say: “This is the 21st century! I’m not just a letter. I’m 140 characters!”
Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.