Yesterday, I wrote 3,000 words about children’s toys.
The work was a bit mind-numbing. I tend to describe my word usage as economical: if it can be said in fewer words, with more meaning, I’m all for it.
I wrote nearly 1,000 words on suggestions and considerations when shopping for toys. Those 1,000 words numbered 700 too many on that subject, but I had a word count to hit and hit it, I did.
I landed the assignment through a freelance website. When I submitted the article, the client told me I nailed it. The project put me right back in college, eking out nine-page papers on Charles Dickens’ books I’d never read.
I stared at the word count on the lower portion of my screen, watching the number go from 200, to 500, to 1,200, to 2,000. The last 1,000 words were a struggle. I was sweating. I watched two guys at the coffee shop, overhearing their discussions about where they’d go for lunch. I felt jealous of their relaxed nonchalance. There you are, sitting there, talking about microbrews and burgers, not a care in the world, and I’m at 1,947 words of 3,000, describing the merits of zip-lines for seven-year-olds.
I left the coffee shop, 15 minutes past schedule, feeling utter relief for finishing hours ahead of my 8 PM deadline.
I left a message for a friend that I wouldn’t take another assignment. Torture, I claimed. Totally ridiculous.
In emails with the client, I provided honest feedback and asked a few questions. It’s a skill, he wrote. It’s a different kind of writing. You learn how and where to find information that you can rewrite faster.
His comments struck a cord. It’s a skill. I thought of my cover letter submitted with my proposal for the job: I wrote of growing up on my family’s cattle ranch, learning how to work, doing a good job no matter what the job.
Even though I said I wouldn’t write more, I sent him an email this afternoon and said, “Sign me up for a project tomorrow.” School’s out for the day. I’m going to need two hours to research and write. I’m probably crazy.
But I can’t let myself quit yet. Even though this type of work is not how I want to spend all of my time, I think there is great value in developing and honing a challenging skill. When I’m working, I tend to get a bit cranky with my kids: I’m begging them to just let me get this done when they’re begging me for a snack. I think, perhaps, these assignments will provide an opportunity for me to hone another skill: patience under pressure.
I’ll get my full assignment tomorrow morning. The client offered to pay double the usual fee. All I know is I’ll be writing a guide for a city in Japan. I know next to nothing about Japan, but by this time tomorrow, I’ll know a bit more.