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Idaho Voices

Finding someone to blame can take a lot of time

Thu., Feb. 19, 2009, midnight

According to industry experts, print is dead and no one reads newspapers, books or magazines anymore.

This can make earning a paycheck as a freelance writer rather challenging. However, being my own boss has perks. The dress code is flexible and so are the hours. Recently, I overheard 9-year-old Sam explaining my job to a classmate. “My mom drives around and talks to people. Then she comes back home and types up what they say.” Well, there’s a bit more to it than that.

The major downside to self-employment is finding someone to blame when things go wrong, and juggling my children’s busy schedules with editorial deadlines. Time management can be a struggle.

My husband advised me to maximize my efficiency and profits by keeping a record of time spent on each assignment. I agreed, but the task proved more difficult and depressing than I imagined. I discovered it can take an entire day to write an 800-word article. Here’s a recent timeline:

Pour a cup of coffee and turn on the computer.

Open new document to begin work.

Realize you have notes in another file.

Open My Documents to pull up that file.

See a file titled, “Ravioli On Your Back.” Read it. Laugh.

Decide it would make a good blog post.

Go to your favorite newspaper blog.

Post funny story. Remember you’re supposed to be working.

Notice little yellow e-mail flag waving. Hear the clock ticking. Ignore e-mail and stay on task.

Google your subject.

Find the obituary of your subject’s brother.

Discover he was a hypnotherapist. Google hypnotherapy.

Realize this information isn’t pertinent to your assignment. Read more, anyway.

Remember you haven’t typed a word of your article because you haven’t pulled up your notes. Try to remember the title of the notes.

Discover you have 129 documents with “notes” in the title. Pour a second cup of coffee.

Ignore ringing home phone. Notice your e-mail flag is still waving. Get new mail.

Click on YouTube link your brother sent you.

Laugh so hard you spill your coffee.

Clean up mess.

Reply to new e-mails.

Read old e-mails. Remember your New Year’s resolve to keep inbox under 100 messages. Wonder how on earth you can do that. Wonder if there’s a book on e-mail inbox management. Google it.

Read a bunch of articles on how to keep your inbox tidy. Feel bad.

Remember your library books are due.

Check library hours.

Read new titles list on library Web site. Place books on hold. Remember your New Year’s resolution not to read anymore library books until you catch up on the stack of books beside your bed.

Cancel holds.

Ignore ringing business phone.

Pour more coffee.

Pull up article you are supposed to be working on. Type title. Remember you still haven’t found your notes.

Decide to search for notes after lunch.

Make lunch and take it to your desk.

Remember your New Year’s resolution not to eat lunch at your desk anymore.

Eat at desk anyway.

Google lunch/desk/work.

E-mail flag is waving.

Check new mail.

Remember your New Year’s resolve to not answer e-mails when you’re on deadline. Answer e-mails anyway.

Jump as cell phone vibrates. Ignore it.

Pull up article. Fuss with opening paragraph. Remember you still haven’t found your notes. Scroll through documents. Find a novel you once started: “Red Pen’s Rampage.” Read the opening chapter. Ponder what inspired you to start a novel about a night-desk newspaper editor who’s also a vampire.

Recognize that the plot fizzled when your writing buddies told you nobody wants to read about editors – even if they are vampires.

Google vampire/editor.

Check the clock.

Discover you’re late for carpool.

Remember your New Year’s resolution that your children won’t be the last ones standing in front of their school anymore. Resolve to not make further New Year’s resolutions.

Ignore ringing home phone. You know it’s the school.

Close document. Discover you didn’t save or back up your document.

Realize it doesn’t matter because all you had was a bad first paragraph.

Turn off computer.

At this point I discovered why my profits are lagging. It’s not my fault at all. I blame the Internet. Not only did it kill print, it’s responsible for Google. I’ll finish that article and pick up my kids, right after I fill out a workers’ compensation claim for pain, suffering and emotional distress. Google has deep pockets. My profitability is looking better already.

Contact Cindy Hval at Previous columns are available online at

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