After Life: mini review

If you like series written by and starring Ricky Gervais, you will love season one of After Life, a six episode comedy (and I use the word “comedy” loosely) on Netflix. In After Life, the wife of main character, Tony (Ricky Gervais) dies after a prolonged battle with illness. Tony’s nice-guy persona is altered into an curmudgeonly one as he combats depression, views videos his wife has left him and that he has taken of fun pranks he pulled on her and generally doesn’t give a shit about life, friends and co-workers.

He contemplates suicide and the only reason he doesn’t off himself is because he has a dog who needs to be fed. (As a dog owner, I can empathize with the need to feed your best friend.) He also visits his father, who is in a seniors’ home, and kind of mentors a new writer at the community newspaper where he works, while driving many of his co-workers crazy with his antics and attitude. (By way of aside, the various headlines you see in the paper are hilarious and, evidently, all taken from or based on headlines that have appeared in various community newspapers.)

So why do I use the word “comedy” loosely to describe After Life? After all,  Gervais is a funny guy. The Office, Extras, his stand-up specials (including his hosting of the Golden Globes), and other work he’s done has always been hilarious. In much of the work he’s done though, there has always been a hint of, even a dollop of, tenderness. In After Life, Gervais skillfully combines the ingredients of an engaging premise, intriguing characters, humor, tenderness, touching moments, and even a hint of drama into the perfect series cake. (I call my cake “carrot”, my favorite flavor; you can chose your favorite cake flavor.)

With only six 30-minute episodes in season one, the series flies by way to quickly, and yet is fully developed and resolved. In short, if you have previous give series written by and starring Ricky Gervais a 7, 8 or 9 out of 10, you will give After Life a 12+. It really is that good. If you want an entertaining and redeeming romp through life after a major loss, go forth and watch After Life. Can’t wait for season two,

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Prologue to Family Tree, a novel

These are three short passages from a very rough beginning of Family Tree, a novel, historical fiction, that I may be writing. I am looking for feedback. Feel free to post detailed feedback here (or email it to paullima.com@gmail.com), or simply let me know if, based on the prologue, you think you might be interested in reading the book — especially if you like historical fiction.

Family Tree Prologue

Germany February 1945
The bombing of Dresden was an intense British and American aerial attack on the capital of the German state of Saxony during World War II. In four raids over two days in February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. Over 20,000 people were killed. And at least one tree south of the city was almost mortally damaged.

Some of the planes that were meant to bomb Dresden came under flack attack and dropped their bombs before reaching their destination. The bombs of one plane fell just south of Dresden and  exploded close to an ancient Linden tree, reducing it to a bit of branchless trunk protruding out of the earth. However, its root system remained intact.

When the bombs fell near the ancient Linden, the branches of more than fifty Linden trees in England, the United States and Canada shook violently. The roots of these trees sent out a silent scream, electrical impulses that travelled towards Germany. The impulses crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel and were picked up by Linden trees within a 1,000 miles radius of the old Linden that had been all but destroyed by the fall of the wayward bombs.

The trees that picked up the impulses replied. “Do not worry. We will feed the roots of your father.” And with that, they sent food through the soil to the old tree, keeping its roots and what was left of its trunk alive.

Saxony 380
The land of the Saxons, a Germanic tribe that occupied the North Sea coast of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, often flooded. The frequent flooding made it difficult to yield enough crops to feed the Saxon population. Many Saxons crossed the English Channel, looking for new places to settle and farm. But Great Britain was occupied by the Romans who killed many Saxons and drove those that they did not kill back home. And so, at the start of the fourth century, the Saxons sent in their armies and the battle for supremacy over Great Britain began.

When the Saxon armies first crossed into Britain, they too were beaten back by the Romans, as the Saxon settlers had been. They were repulsed by Roman soldiers guarding Hadrian’s wall. The wall, 80 miles long and stretching from sea to sea, seemed impenetrable. It had been built on the orders of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and was meant to separate the Romans from the barbarians who inhabited Britain before the Saxon invasion. However, in 368, the Saxons stopped trying to penetrate the wall and started a year-long series of raids meant to demoralize the Romans by killing Roman soldiers who were protecting the wall, destroying Roman installations along the wall and by looting villages near the wall. These raids led to the Roman abandonment of Hadrian’s Wall. 

An uneasy co-existence between Romans and Saxons in Britain began, with intermittent raids and battles taking place. However, in 383, more Saxon armies sailed across the English Channel to fight the Romans. The Romans were having problem at home and their armies in Great Britain were beginning to leave the island to join Roman legions in Rome. The newly arrived Saxons helped to drive the remaining Romans legions out of Great Britain before settling down to farm the lush land they now called home.

Megan, a Saxon warrior, marched as chief at the head of her father’s old warband. Although Saxon warriors lacked the discipline of Roman battalions, the warriors in the warband were professionals, fed and paid by their leader. Megan had to battle three Gedriht, who had been followers of her father, for the privilege of leading the warband. After she defeated her third opponent, the challenges from the men who aspired to lead the warband ceased. She kept the men she had defeated as her Gedriht, personal followers who were sworn to die with her should the need arise. Each Gedriht led a troop of Geoguth, or young warriors. They formed the bulk of the warband and carried shields, spears and Seaxes or single-edged daggers or short swords. Few had helmets or armour, but all fought with great abandon for their leader.

Megan and her Gedriht wore helmets and chainmail armour and proudly carried their Gars, 2.5-meter long spears with ash shafts. In addition to her Gar she carried with her a small satchel that contains her few belongings and five seeds from the Linden tree that grew by her parents hut on the small plot of land that they farmed. Her father had taught her all she knew of fighting and battle. He had led the warband until injured in battle. When injured, he settled down with his wife to farm a plot of land granted to him by his cyning or king.

When Megan told her father that his old warband, her new one, would be sailing for Great Britain he gave her five Linden seeds and said, “When you find a place to lay your head and to raise your children, plant them as I planted our Linden when your mother told me she was pregnant with you. Then give five seeds to your first born and tell your child to do likewise. For this is our family tree and it should stay with our family forever.”

Toronto, Canada and Dresden, Germany, 2020
Alwin Linden, his wife Mary and their daughter Ashley landed at Dresden airport at one o’clock in the afternoon, Dresden time. They had taken the ten-hour flight from Toronto to Dresden and, although they were each feeling jet-lagged, it did not take them long to retrieve what little luggage they had brought. Unlike many large international airports, the arrival and departure areas at the Dresden airport are combined and there is even a viewing platform under the same roof where one can watch planes take off and land. While the airport has its own motorway exit and S-Bahn or city rapid railway station, the Lindens dragged their luggage through the concourse in search of the exit where the Meyers, a family they only knew from online chatting, said they should meet.

It didn’t take long for the Lindens to find the Myers. Everett Myers was standing with his wife, Blythe, and their daughter, Hanna. Hanna was holding a cardboard sign with the name Linden scrawled on it in black marker. Although the families had never met, other than online, they hugged like long lost friends, or relatives. And presuming Ancestry DNA was correct, they were indeed long lost relatives, connected centuries ago by Saxon blood and the ancient lineage of a family tree.

High school life: from “The Accidental Writer”…

This is an excerpt from a memoir that I am writing, The Accidental Writer. It focuses on life in high school, Bloor Collegiate Institute (BCI) in Toronto. Hope to have the book available this summer.

I have some distinct high school memories. Not a lot, but some. Very few of them have anything to do with what was going on in the classroom. The classroom was boring and repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, I learned stuff in school. I’ve even retained some of that knowledge. But I don’t remember day-to-day classroom learning activities.

I do remember one day in French class in grade ten, a bunch of guys (I honestly don’t remember if I was one of them) picked up this skinny guy, a nice guy named Ron, and tossed him out the second floor window. There was a very wide ledge, so he did not fall to the ground. The guys then shut the window and pulled down all the blinds. When the teacher came in, we were all pounding on our desks to mask the sound of Ron pounding on the window. The teacher asked us what we were doing, but we continued to pound away. She shook her head like we were all crazy and then asked why it was so dark in the room. She went to the window and opened the blinds, and there was Ron standing on the ledge, pounding on the window. And that, your honour, is why to this day I speak no French.

I have a few other in-class memories like that. In other words, none of my in-class memories have to do with learning. And yet I learned, barely. But I learned enough to pass high school, barely.

As I said, most of my high school memories have to do with extracurricular activities and with drinking beer, often too much beer. And a few with getting stoned.

I played football, but not very well. As a chubby kid, I was put on the line and told to block — to defend the quarterback, who was Rob Sotnick when we were in grade thirteen. I remember ducking a lot so I wouldn’t get pounded by defensive linemen. And I remember this:  in the last quarter of the last game of the grade thirteen season, we were about ten yards from the opposition goal line. Rob was a decent quarterback, but in three years of quarterbacking (he was only my quarterback in grade thirteen because he was a year older than I was so he played at an older level than I did until grade thirteen) Rob had never scored a touchdown. He had passed for many and handed off for many. But he had never scored. With emotion in his voice — look at that, I remember his voice quaking — he called for a quarterback sneak. The players in the huddle called “break” (which was what we said once the play had been called) with particular enthusiasm — even me. Damn it, I was going to block the hell out of my opposing defensive lineman and help Rob get his touchdown. The snap was on three. I jumped out prematurely on two, I was that pumped. Rob scored, but the play was called back. Offside. I remember hearing Rob say, “Who was offside.” Somebody said, “Lima.” Somebody else — the half-back Gary — said, “Kick him in the head, Sotnick!”

Shit, I failed enough for lack of trying. But even when I tried, I managed to fail.

The ball was moved back ten yards. We failed to score on the next play and had to give up the ball. See, that is the kind of fun stuff I remember from high school. That, and as I said, drinking beer and smoking pot.

Having said that, I was in the drama club in grades twelve and thirteen. I wasn’t very good but I was in two plays, I Remember Mama and another one that I don’t remember. I played the father in both plays, minor roles befitting the quality of my acting. Of the two plays I remember one line — “Trotsky!” — although I don’t remember which play it was from. In the play, I was heading to the washroom and had a book. My wife asked me what I was reading. My reply was “Trotsky!” The director had to explain to me that this was funny because I was going to the bathroom and Trotsky was a play on the word “trots”, slang for diarrhea, at least it was when the play had been written. Ha-ha. The line never got a laugh the three times, at least I think it was three times, we performed whichever play it was.

I don’t remember auditioning, rehearsals or even performances, other than one night one of the actors hit a lamp with his hand while making a gesture. The lamp broke and cut him; he had to get his hand bandaged up next time he was off stage, and the play went on.

Ah, the show must go on. As must life. As must my memoir. Well, I guess my memoir doesn’t have to go on, but I choose to continue to move my fingers over the keyboard and make squiggles known as letters show up on the screen.

I do recall other things about high school. Not a lot. But there are other memories. For instance, I had a girlfriend in grade eleven. She was in grade nine. I swear Francis picked me. I knew guys were supposed to have girlfriends, but I didn’t know what guys were supposed to do with girlfriends. I didn’t know how to date a girl or socialize with one. I had only had a couple of episodes that involved kissing up to that point, not that I remember much about kissing, other than spitting after my first French kiss, after the girl was gone. I was, how shall I put this, rather disgusted with the exchange of saliva. You’d think I’d remember the name and face of the first girl I kissed, and where we were and when I kissed her. I don’t. All I recall is spitting afterwards.

Don’t get me wrong, I fantasized about women and jerked off while doing so, but beyond my fantasies, which were total fiction, I did not know what to do with, or how to be with, a real woman. Rather than admitting to any of that, I simply broke up with Francis, a sweet, gregarious, fun person who liked to laugh and had a great sense of humour. (What the heck was she doing with sourpuss me?)

I ran into her on Facebook recently and apologized for how we broke up. She is now a mother of three, with nine grandkids. Facts that this dad of one sired by another man finds kind of overwhelming. When I apologized, she digitally shrugged her shoulders and said it was no big deal. In the overall scheme of things, I know she is right. I mean every guy I knew was dating and breaking up, other than a couple of guys. They were either not dating at all or dated one girl and married their high school sweetheart, but eventually got divorced. So I’m sure Francis and I would have broken up eventually. It’s just that I don’t like the fact that we broke up because of my ignorance over how to be in a relationship.

Part way through grade twelve I started to date Ana and she became the love of my life. We broke up in the fall of 1972, before the start of the Canada-U.S.S.R. summit series — an eight-game showdown between hockey’s two superpowers. We got back together the day the last game was played. I remember Ana and I talking somewhere while the last game was on. I was so in love with her that I skipped the last game of the series to talk things through with her and to get back together.

(For what it’s worth, Canada only won that series because of Bobby Clarke’s cowardly and sickening game six slash on Russia’s best player, Valeri  Kharlamov. The slash broke Kharlamov’s ankle. It may have been the turning point for Team Canada but winning the tournament set back hockey in Canada forever. Okay, I’ll get off my hokey hockey soap box now.)

And of course, at the end of grade thirteen when I told Ana that I imagined us eventually living together as I continued to write my abysmal poetry (only I left out the word “abysmal”) and she worked at whatever she wanted to do, she broke up with me. I was heading off to wander aimlessly through university; she was off to work for an airline and to have a real life. She clearly saw the fact that there would be no long term fit with me. That and I guess she didn’t want to support a miserable poet. Now that was grounds for breaking up!

Ah, I have more high school memories, but they hardly seem worth telling. For what do they have to do with me becoming an accidental writer, an accidental dad and an accidental dog lover. Speaking of which, the dog is asking to go for his afternoon walk, so this seems like a good time to end chapter five.

Again, this is an excerpt from a memoir that I am writing, The Accidental Writer. It focuses on life in high school, at BCI. Hope to have the book available this summer. If you want to be notified when the book is available, send an email to paullima.com@gmail.com with the subject line “Accidental Update”.

Intro to The Accidental Writer

Introduction to The Accidental Writer

I have been one of Canada’s most successful freelance writers and one of the country’s most successful freelance trainers. Now before freelance writers and trainers who have been more successful than I have been start to say, “Hey, wait a minute. Not as successful as me!” please reread my opening line. I said “one of Canada’s most,” not “the most.” I’ve not been the most successful freelancer. But still, I’ve done okay.

I started out as a full-time copywriter way back when, became a freelance journalist and then a six-figure freelance corporate writer and author of over a dozen books on business writing, promotional writing, online writing and the business of freelance writing. When I added training (business writing, promotional writing, online writing and media interview preparation) to the list of services that I offered, my soaring income soared to even greater heights.

But why am I using past tense here? As of this writing, I am 64 years old. I have multiple sclerosis (MS), and it’s fair to say that I am more retired than not retired, although I teach online writing courses for the University of Toronto and conduct the occasional writing webinar. But for the most part, I am simply having fun writing this memoir and outlining a novel, one that I am not sure I will ever write. Time will tell.

The fact is, I am an accidental writer. I am also an accidental dad and an accidental dog lover. Stick with me, because this book will explain it all. And it will take a few digressions into other aspects of my history along the way.

Some people might call this book a memoir. Some might call it an autobiography. There is a difference, or so I’ve been told by writers who are more knowledgeable about such things. But just as there is a difference, there is also a spectrum. When it comes to writing like this, the spectrum might have a strict definition of memoir at one end and of autobiography at the other. But there is a heck of a lot of room in between for writing that is a bit of both or somewhat more of one and less of another.

It’s kind of like the spectrum for gender and sexual orientation. Not that I am in the middle of either of those spectrums, although there is some, limited, same sex fooling around in my life. And, come to think of it, there are a whole lot of guys out there who are much more macho than I am. In fact, you might say, if you were to invoke stereotypes, that I have a strong feminine side. But I digress, as I warned you I would, in an autobiographical manner that has nothing to do with my becoming an accidental writer.

However, to be clear, I do feel this book belongs somewhere on that spectrum, the literary one, not the gender or sexual orientation one. It is a memoir about how I became a writer and trainer and dad and dog lover. But it is also an autobiography, one that leaves out a lot of stuff about me. So this work fits somewhere on the spectrum.

But before we get on with the book, here is a bit about memory, which is an important component of this book. Memory does not work like a DVD waiting to be played. It is not stored like a video file waiting to be downloaded or streamed. Memories are formed in networks across the brain and every time they are recalled they can be subtly altered. (At least that is what I’ve read online.) At the same time, I know people whose memories are much more vivid than mine are and I know people who are much more emphatic about what they remember. For instance, many people know exactly where they were when they heard that John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) was assassinated. I haven’t got a clue where I was. But a friend of mine remembers, and I am in his memory. So we were at the same place at the same time. He says we were walking home from public school when several boys walking down the street stopped us and told us the news.

It was November 22, 1963. I was nine years old, about to turn ten in four days, and in grade four. I was not in a great mood because an aunt was getting married on November 26, my birthday. That meant I would not be having a birthday party but would be at her reception. So I remember being peeved that there would be no birthday party for me; I do not recall hearing that JFK had been killed. Priorities.

On the other hand, I remember where I was when I heard the news in the early 1980s that a passenger jet had been shot down. I was working as a copywriter for Radio Shack, the company that is now known as The Source. I remember feeling depressed about the loss of life. Who would kill all those innocent people and why? However, I don’t remember how I heard this news, what country the downed plane belonged too (although South Korea comes to mind) or what country shot it down (but I have a nagging feeling that it was Russia, but I could be wrong).

So why remember some things and not others? And why have holes of various sizes in some of the things that I remember? For instance, I remember where I was on 9/11 and how I heard the news that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. I also remember who I immediately told about it. Perhaps it has to do with age and with what else is going on in life at a particular time, as much it does with the event itself. As in I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday — unless what I had for lunch was particularly spectacular, which it wasn’t if I prepared the meal — but if a major political figure or famous person had died yesterday, I suspect I’d remember that.

With that in mind, most of my memories in this book are suspect. In some ways, this book feels like a work of fiction; I feel like I’m making up characters and events. But I can assure you that this book is not fiction. I am not lying, at least not deliberately lying. This book is me, as best as I can remember myself, becoming a writer … a dad … a dog lover. All accidentally.

Read more about The Accidental Writer and sign up to be notified by email about its availability.

 

 

 

Why I get to know what I write about

Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why do you write about MS? If you had cancer or liver disease or were recovering from a heart attack would you write about that?”

The answer is simple: Absolutely I would.

The people who ask me are not writers. If you are not a writer it can be difficult to understand a writer’s drive and mentality.

There is a saying that many, most, writers live by. Simply put, it is this: Write what you know.

And I know MS.

But, you ask, you have been a professional writer for 40 years. You used to write advertising copy for an electronics firm. As a freelance writer, you have written thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. You have written for hundreds of corporate clients. Surely you did not know about all you have written about.

That I would say is an astute observation. But yes, even writers who write about diverse topics write about what they know.

Allow me to explain. As a freelance writer I wrote about a great variety of topics. I had too if I was going to make a living. And initially I knew very little about the topics that I had to write about. What I had to do was conduct interviews and research to get to know the topics before I could write about them, so that I could then write what I know.

Admittedly, I often forgot what I knew once my writing was done. But as I was writing, I knew my subject matter. In fact, as a freelance journalist for fifteen years, I had to know both sides, often many sides, of an issue before I could write about it.

It is the nature of writing nonfiction. You get to know your subject matter so that you can write what you know. And some years, I would write a hundred articles or write for dozens of corporate clients. So I would get to know a lot of stuff about a lot of things.

I can’t talk extensively about writing fiction, but a lot of fiction is loosely biographical. In other words the writers know what the are writing about. And even if the events that they are writing about are not biographical, they know the emotional truth at the centre of their story. And yes, sometimes they just seem to be making stuff up, science fiction for instance. But think about it. They invent and get to know whole other worlds before they write about them. So it is fair to say that they know what they are writing about.

Which in a round about way leads back to me writing about my MS.

First off, I wish it was fiction. Sadly it isn’t. I’ve had it for 20 years, but 20 years ago, even 10 years ago, I could not write about it. I didn’t know it well enough. A part of me was in denial about it, almost as if it were a fiction that I did not want to know about. As if it was this other world that I could not admit was real.

But once I accepted, begrudgingly, the reality of my MS, I got to know it. I researched it extensively, many sides of it, for my book MS and Me. And even though I wrote the book, there was a part of me that felt I did not know MS well enough. So I plunged back into research mode, or got to know it even better. The result was Everything You Need To Know About Multiple Sclerosis: For MS Warriors, their Family, Friends and Care Givers.

The book is a fact based book about, well, just about everything you need to know about MS. What it is. Why it is. How it is different for everybody who has it. What can and cannot be done about it. I look at both sides of many things that people do to combat it. I look at the toll it takes on those with it. I let a number of other people speak about it because I know that I don’t know everything there is to know about MS. Some of those who speak have MS, others live with those who have it and speak about the impact it has had on their relationships with those who have it.

It’s as if I am saying I know MS well enough to know certain issues must be addressed, but not well enough to address them. So I bring other voices into my books to address the issues that I do not, and cannot, know.

As nonfiction writers, that is what we do. We conduct research and we quote or paraphrase what other people have said about a topic. In other words, we get to know our subject matter through others. That is one of the ways we objectively address a topic.

For instance, I have never been on an MS disease modifying drug. But I let people know what drugs are out there, their potential benefits and side effects. Research lets me do that. However, I also have someone who has been on them speak about them too.

I have never raised funds in support of MS research. Just not my thing. But I let someone who has done so speak about what she does and why she does it.

In fact it was my wife, Lyn, who told me that I did not know about MS from the point of view of someone who did not have it but lived with some who did. She suggested that the book would be incomplete with the voices of people who lived with MS Warriors in it. And she was right.

So if you cannot get to know something completely and want to write about it, you have two choices. Write about it in an incomplete manner. Or bring in other voices to complete your writing.

That is what writing is all about. Getting to know something well enough so you can write about it, and well enough so you know you need help, other voices, to make your writing complete.

There is no denying that I wish my writing about MS was pure fiction, that I didn’t have it but had created a fictional character with it. But I have it. So I got to know it, intimately. And then I did what any writer does when they know something intimately. I wrote, and no doubt will continue to write, about this disease called MS. Because I am a writer. And this is what writers do.

Something starts with nothing

Something starts with nothing…

I was bored this morning. All tableted out and didn’t feel like turning on my computer. So I turned on the TV. A woman was being interviewed about the positive side of boredom. Said it could be the beginning of creativity, but most people were too scared to be bored and thought of boredom in negative terms.

But she said there were positive sides to boredom. For instance, it begets meditation and opens doors to creativity.

When the interview was done, I turned off the TV and kept the tablet off. I just sat there on the couch, with eyes closed. It was not meditation. Was kind of a silent, empty contemplation… Perhaps not even that.

Within a short while a search term for my headaches (I have 24/7 headaches; they are not migraines; I have had a constant headache for four years now) entered my head. And ideas for a novel I am trying to convince an author to write came to me…

When I got up I entered the new headache search term into Google and discovered online for the first time other people with my exact same headache. Turns out it’s called New Daily Persistent Headache. Google it! Four years I’ve had this sucker. My neurologist has never named it. She has not prescribed a medication that works to alleviate it. I have certainly not found a cure for it.

But I have now found a community — people who have what I have.

You might ask, “What is so important about that?”

I confess, I was beginning to think that maybe I was psychosomatic. You know, don’t have a headache but have just kind of gone crazy, and my insanity it manifesting itself with a so-called headache.

Well, either there are a lot of crazy people who think they have 24/7 headaches out there or this sucker is real…

Oh, and I have a 10-point novel outline to give to the author…

As the person who was interviewed said, something often begins with nothing. It’s just that we don’t give ourselves nothing time. This is something that I am going to have to try to give myself more often.

So you will have to excuse me, but I am going to go do nothing again for a while. And let me tell you, doing nothing is something that is difficult for me to do. So for the next while, no tablet, no e-reader, no radio, no TV. Just nothing. And if it takes me nowhere, no big deal. It’s just something, nothing is, that I am going to try to give myself each day.

Boredom. I am going to embrace it. And see where, if anywhere, it takes me.

How to set corporate writing rates

Excerpt from Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines and from Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments.

You are working non-billable hours if you are in marketing mode, or when you are filing, cleaning your office, doing your books, and so on. A billable hour, on the other hand, is any hour (or part thereof) that you are paid to work. You may be writing, conducting research or interviews, revising work, or attending meetings. As long as you are being paid, it is a billable hour.

Which came first?

Question: How many billable hours do you need to work per week to become a six-figure freelancer?

Answer: It depends on how much you charge per hour.

Question: How much should you charge per hour?

Answer: It depends on how many billable hours you can work per week.

It’s a bit like the chicken or the egg question, no? One cannot exist without the other, but which comes first? To answer the question, I like to start with my annual revenue target, which starts with six figures—the Holy Grail of freelancers. Unlike the Holy Grail, earning six figures as a freelancer is not a myth. Writers who earn six-figure incomes are all dedicated and disciplined writers. (But they still manage to take some time off to goof around.)

Six figures may be your revenue target, but don’t sweat it if it feels like an unreachable dream right now. To set your annual revenue target, start with your revenue history. How much did you earn last year as a freelancer? It can be difficult to go from a $20,000 or $50,000 income to a six-figure income in a year, so set a realistic target for this year, perhaps a 15 percent increase. If you exceed it, cool! That will help you set a more realistic target for the following year.

Do the math

Annual revenue goal: $ ___________ per year.

Now calculate how much you have to earn per week to hit the target. I am going to give you two weeks off for good behaviour (or vacation).

Weekly revenue goal: $ __________ per year / 50 weeks = $ ______ per week

Now that you know how much you need to earn per week to hit your target, how much do you need to charge per hour? Most writers will tell you they work, or aim to work, 15 to 25 billable hours per week. Based on that, let’s calculate what you have to charge per billable hour. Let’s use a six-figure target and an achievable 20 billable hours per week, and continue to do the math:

$100,000 per year / 50 weeks = $2,000 per week

$2,000 per week / 20 billable hours per week = $100 per hour

So, there is your answer. Or is it? Will you be able to work four billable hours per day, five days per week, 50 weeks per year at $100 per hour? If you are just getting started, probably not. If you have never charged more than $35 or $50 per hour in your life, the thought of charging $100 per hour might give you pause. At the same time, if you are writing annual-report copy for major corporations, or if you are writing speeches for senior executives, you might be laughing at the thought of charging so little.

So, here is what you do if you want to be a professional freelancer:

  • Figure out what you want to make per year.
  • Determine the number of hours (billable) you are willing to work per week.
  • Calculate the amount you need to charge per hour.
  • Find clients who are willing to pay your rate, and find enough of them so you can work the number of billable hours you want to work.

It’s that simple. But it takes a lot of work to get there. Again, at this point, if you still aren’t sure what to charge, don’t worry. You’ll read much more on rates and how to calculate quotes before we get to the end of the book. For now, though, do you see why developing a revenue target is so important? If you don’t know how much you want to earn, how can you plan to earn it? How do you know how much you need to earn per week or per hour to meet your annual revenue goal? Setting that annual revenue goal is an important part of establishing your rate and creating your business and marketing plans.

If you want to earn more than six figures, you have to work more hours or charge more per hour. If you want to work less than 20 billable hours per week, and still earn six figures, you need to find clients willing to pay more per hour. Or you have to make money in your sleep. (I might have been asleep when you purchased this book. It took a lot of work to write and market it, but now it earns money while I sleep, am on vacation, or do other billable work.)

You may want a better sense of what the corporate market expects to pay for work but all I can do is repeat: there is no set rate. Sometimes, even different departments of the same company have different rate expectations! We will, however, talk a lot more about money and about issuing quotes….

Get your free writing book PDF

I am giving away free PDFs of my books on writing–business writing, promotional writing, writing articles, writing for the web, business of freelance writing.

All I am asking in return is that you post a mini review or overview of the book(s) you chose on several social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and so on) and include a link to my book promo page: www.paullima.com/books. (That is where you go to pick out the book(s) you want.)

I am NOT asking that you post a positive review! If the book doesn’t work for you, you are free to say so. But I hope you find the book(s) informative and well written, and that you make positive comments.

So how do you get your book?

Visit www.paullima.com/books and select the book(s) you want. Then all you have to do is email paullima.com@gmail.com and request your book(s).

I will email you the free PDF and you go from there.

If you have any questions, email paullima.com@gmail.com and let me know. And happy reading about writing.

What do ‘ill’ freelancers do?

As many followers of this blog know, I have been a freelance writer and writing teacher/trainer for 25+ years. Some of you may know that I also have MS (Multiple Sclerosis). I was able to work while dealing it for over a decade, but for the last four years it has slowed me down considerably. Can’t go out to teach or train (although I conduct some webinars and teach some online courses) and I can’t attend client meetings. And even when I land some small writing jobs, it can be difficult to focus on the work.

So the question is, what does a freelancer with MS, or any illness, do?

In my humble opinion, it is your job to stay as active and engaged as your mind and your body will allow. I mean what is the alternative? Toss in the towel, roll up on the couch and bury your head in the sand — if I am allowed to mix my metaphors.

That is why I am posting a link to my song, my very first song, American Donald. I am not posting it to make a political statement, although the song is political satire. I am posting it to make a statement about doing what you can do even though you have MS. I am not a song writer, but I wrote the lyrics to this song parody (a little ditty based on American Woman by The Guess Who), found someone to sing it (I’m not a singer), and learned how to create the slide show video  you see here — https://youtu.be/slI7w5tGFG0.

I am not asking you to agree with the politics of the song, or to even like it (although I think the singer really rocks it!). I am asking anyone who is dealing with an illness, disease or disability to find their interests and passion and to become as engaged and active (as alive!) as they can be as they battle whatever it is they have to battle..

Allow me to elaborate.

I can no longer stand in a room and train people — teach classes or conduct writing workshops. That is why I now teach online business-writing and copywriting courses and conduct writing training webinars. All I have to do is sit in front of my computer, as I am doing now, and type replies to my online students or talk to webinar participants. That I can still do.

I am also a writer, but I find it difficult to write for clients these days. First off, I can’t attend meetings. Secondly, my concentration isn’t what it used to be. So I find it difficult to focus on the writing job. But I seem to be able to focus on my own projects. That is why I wrote my parody song. In addition, I have recently written a book, Everything You Want to Know About MS.

While print, epub and Kindle copies of the book are on sale at various online stores, I am giving away free copies of the PDF to MS Warriors (and their care givers, family members and friends). If you want a free PDF copy of the book, email msandmebook@gmail.com with the subject line “Free MS PDF” and I will email you a PDF. In short, it’s not really a money-making project; it is a way to give back to my community.

So, with all that in mind, if you are battling limitations, do what you can do to stay as engaged as you can. That’s all I am saying.

What’s the alternative? I’m not saying like or enjoy your MS or whatever you are dealing with. I am saying embrace it, work through it, fight through it — through its limitations and symptoms — as best you can. If someone has an alternative idea, one that works, in mind, feel free to enlighten me! Leave a message here. Otherwise, I will simply continue to do what I am doing — the best I can do to stay active and engaged under the circumstances.

And email me if you want a free PDF copy of the book!

American Donald video; ‘guess who’ is singing!

I’ve tried, for me, a different kind of writing: a satiric song: American Donald. You can hear the song, view the video and read the lyrics here:  https://youtu.be/slI7w5tGFG0

If you like American Woman, and if Trump is not your cuppa, and if you enjoy a rockin’ female singer, you will enjoy the video!

I can’t say who the singer is; she was happy to sing the song, and she really rocks it, but she doesn’t want her name on the video, in case she needs to go to the US one day… About the singer I can only say “Guess Who”!)…

Note: I confess I asked Randy Bachman first if he wanted to sing it. He said that he doesn’t do political songs… Um, what was American Woman if not a song that made a political statement and took a political stance??? Okay, it was not as politically overt as American Donald, still…

But not a problem; I like this version. And actually think it’s much more appropriate that a woman sings (rocks!) the song.

Again, you can see the video here: https://youtu.be/slI7w5tGFG0