I’m not well-behaved or well-dressed enough for most careers. That may be what led me to cobble together enough freelance gigs to call myself a writer. It doesn’t pay quickly or pay well. In fact, I earn less than in my former occupation, social work, and that’s saying something. But freelancing suits me.
Well, except for that episode of nudity with my editor.
Perhaps I should explain.
Years ago I secured a job writing a newspaper column. As with most of my other writing gigs, I worked after the kids were in bed. I e-mailed my first column just before the midnight deadline.
The next morning was typical. I unloaded the dishwasher, explained long division, defended my right to listen to a CD of Tibetan throat singing, feigned patience while listening to a child’s original knock knock jokes, discussed the ethics of phone screening with my eight-year-old (who considered it a politeness violation to let it ring) and took photographs of my daughter dissecting a sheep eyeball for a biology project.
It was mid-morning before I had time to shower. Because I’m efficient (lazy) I wear whatever comes out of the dryer. It spares me the effort of putting away my own laundry. I don’t mind monotonous outfits in the service of convenience.
When I got out of the shower I grabbed a towel for my usual mad dash to the dryer and on the way was handed the phone by my eight-year-old. It was the newspaper editor. He wanted me to add a few sentences to my column. He expected me to do this off the top of my head, over the phone, immediately.
While he was telling me this I realized my 11-year-old son had opened the front door, inviting in his pubescent pals. They were chatting eagerly as they headed toward me on their way to the kitchen. There was no way I could get to our dryer, handily located on the first floor, unless I ran directly into these youths and knocked them over like baggy-pants’d bowling pins. I didn’t want to expose these poor youngsters to my not-supermodel flesh at their impressionable ages so I took the kindest course of action possible. I retreated down the basement steps, towel clutched in one hand and phone in the other.
Although I had no chance of sounding professional on the phone, I went on talking to my editor, giving him the lines he needed. He asked if he could edit them to fit. “Sure,” I told him. He’s a writer too, I thought, it’ll be fine. He chatted away as if we were old friends—he surely sitting in a comfortable chair at his desk, me a semi-naked freelancer huddled in the basement.
I stayed trapped in that basement long enough to meditate on the beauty of cobwebs and the interconnection of all life. Long enough to get really cold in my small wet towel.
When my column was published, I saw that the editor had rearranged my few sentences into a nonsensical word soup. It took a lot of self control to keep myself from going into a sheep eyeball-tossing snit. But just then my check arrived in the mail. It was larger than I’d expected. I felt like dancing right out the door to celebrate.
I couldn’t. That’s because I’m a freelance writer and of course, I wasn’t dressed yet.