He bit into his toast. She focused her attention on the melting butter that rested on her pancakes. The rhythm of the kettle kept things under control for a bit. Then he made the coffee that burned his tongue and left her wrist scalded. He threw the kettle onto the floor while her butter lay in a pool of tears.
I don’t usually post links to my published feature articles, but this one is close to my heart.
The blank page on her screen haunted her. Failure. That’s what it said to her face. “But how can I just write for the sake of writing,” she asked the mean page. An amused laugh played somewhere nearby. She decided to let her fingers take over her mind. An hour later, the page begged her to stop. It was feeling too full.
She rubbed her hands together. The heat that was generated did nothing to warm her. His words had left her freezing cold. Like a bottle stuck in the fridge for years, she thought. As if his choice of words hadn’t been enough for her loving heart, his unfeeling eyes added insult. She hugged herself to regain normal body temperature but found herself wishing for an ugly woollen coat. Meanwhile, he walked out into the hot summer afternoon.
It’s been a year and some days since I left my secure journalism job with one of India’s leading newspapers. There have been great months, a few not so good months, and the horrible patches here and there. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by family members and others who don’t understand a career unless it’s in an office and with bosses and perks – thankfully, because they wouldn’t understand my struggles even if I tried to explain things to them. Thus, I can immediately stop ranting because I never start. On the bright side, many people in India are opting for the freelance life. I’ve received some e-mails from freshers and have had the pleasure of meeting many others who’ve decided to take a chance like me. Writers, graphic designers, editors, engineers – freelancing isn’t such a crazy thing anymore. Not crazy, but definitely not easy. Here are some lessons that I picked up over the last 12 months.
1) Do not agree to work without a contract or at least an e-mail stating project terms including payment: I’ve even come across prospective clients who expected me to begin a project without any approval in place. I felt impolite at first, but there is no way that a professional should do work that he or she may not be paid for.
2) Do not agree to writing several samples when you’re applying for a job: One company got me to write about 5 articles as ‘samples’ of my work when I had considerable experience already. My mentors told me that one or two would’ve been normal, but 5 (with demands for more) wasn’t the norm. Fortunately, some companies are professional enough to pay for samples that they use.
3) Always read at least 5 editions of any publication that you want to write for – from cover to cover: In the beginning, I made the mistake of pitching story ideas without getting the feel of a magazine. I was stupid enough to think that reading one or two articles in one issue would be enough.
4) Use Linkedin: I’ve found most of my freelance jobs through this fantastic networking tool. Along with keeping my profile updated and putting up status updates with every published work, I build working relationships with editors. You can even ask your more experienced writer friends to refer you to their Linkedin connections.
Hope this post helps 🙂
They sipped coffee as they spoke of love, past, and present. The aroma of thick pancakes and maple syrup permeated the room. As the waiter brought their order to the table, she remembered. When she smiled her wistful smile, he knew that he had not forgotten either. Their forks made deep wounds in the pancakes. She stabbed at every tiny triangle, while he pained. He wished he could turn back time to when they were little kids with nothing more to worry about than crushes and exams. At that moment, she looked up at him and asked, “Is this why we wanted to grow up?”
There was a little girl called Sheena, who lived with her mother and father. Sheena loved to play with her soft toys and pastels. Every day, she would take out her drawing pad and draw animals. She drew cats. She drew dogs. Sometimes she drew mice. She even drew penguins. When Father came home in the evening, she would give him the pad and wait. Mother would sit by Father and say, “My little Sheena, the cat is so cute.” Father would say, “I like the dog the most.”
One evening Mother surprised her. “Sheena, I just saw a dog like the one that you have drawn today!” Father looked at Mother and said, “Yes, I just saw a puppy in our neighbourhood. It is brown and white and has big pointy ears like a wolf.” Sheena clapped with joy. “I want to see it,” Sheena shouted excitedly. Mother helped Sheena put her shoes on and took her outside to see the puppy.
When they reached the back of their house, Mother asked Sheena to wait. Surprise! She was holding a brown and white puppy – just like the one that Sheena had drawn! “I want to hold him,” said Sheena. Mother placed the puppy into Sheena’s arms. Sheena was in for a surprise. A bigger dog came over and started sniffing her skirt. It was the puppy’s mother. Mother patted her head and gave her and the little one some milk and biscuits. They wagged their tails happily. Sheena watched happily. Then Mother said it was time to go home. But Sheena didn’t want to leave. She had already named the puppy Brown Boy. Mother had named Brown Boy’s mother. She called her Deer because of her beautiful eyes and brown fur with little white spots. “We will come and see them again,” said Mother. Sheena gave Brown Boy and Deer one last hug and took Mother’s hand.
The next day, Sheena and Mother went to visit Brown Boy and Deer with some dinner. Deer was all alone! Sheena started crying. “Brown Boy is gone,” she cried. Mother went from house to house and garden to garden calling Brown Boy, Brown Boy! Sheena asked Deer, “Where is your son?” Deer looked back with sad eyes. Sheena and Mother fed Deer and went back home. Mother, Father and Sheena did not sleep all night. In the morning, the doorbell rang. It was Minu. Minu looked after Sheena when Mother and Father were out. “There is a puppy outside. He seems to be sick,” she told them. Sheena, Father and Mother went running outside. Brown Boy was in the middle of the road. He was not moving. He did not even wag his tail when Sheena ran to hold him. Father said, “I will call the vet.” Mother took Brown Boy inside and kept him on a big piece of cloth. Poor Brown Boy did not move. Sheena cried. She was scared.
The vet came and gave Brown Boy medicine. He said that he would come and give medicines for three days. Mother and Father thanked him. Sheena spent those three days with Brown Boy. She slept by him. She patted his face. She held his soft paws. Brown Boy hardly moved. After the vet’s third visit, Brown Boy suddenly kicked his legs. He even looked at Sheena and Mother and tried to bark. Father was scared of dogs. He stood nearby. He looked happy. Brown Boy went back outside to Deer. Deer was very happy. They rubbed their noses against each other. They wagged their tails from side to side. Brown Boy could bark again!
Sheena was sad. She would miss Brown Boy. Mother and Sheena went out to feed Deer and Brown Boy the next day. But Sheena still missed him. She wanted to watch him run around in his sleep. She wanted to pet him all the time. One evening on their way back from the park, Sheena and Mother could not find Brown Boy again. Deer was missing too! Sheena looked and looked. Mother looked and looked. They were not there. Both very sad, they went home with the food still in the bowls.
When Sheena got home, she got a surprise from Father. Brown Boy and Deer were sitting in the living room – all cleaned up by Minu and wearing new collars too! Father stood right next to them. He rubbed Brown Boy’s head. Sheena asked, “Can they really stay with us, Father?” Father said, “Yes. This is their home now.” Sheena hugged her father tightly.