Category: writing

In My Right Mind

Did you know that in baseball, a left-handed pitcher is called a “southpaw” because traditionally ballparks were built so the batter faced east? Hence the pitcher stood with his left paw toward the south. It kept the sun out of the batters’ eyes mostly. It didn’t help the pitcher any.

But I talk about baseball enough on this blog.

The technical term for left-handedness is “sinistrality” which, if you think about it, sounds like some generic deviant behavior. You couple that with the realization that left is the opposite of “right” and you might end up with a complex.

So it is nice that there is an International Lefthanders Day. It is today, August 13th. Mostly it is an opportunity for the left-handed to lament how writing with a pencil or pen always leaves their words smudged and the side of their hand all leady or inky.

To put a positive spin on things, International Lefthanders Day also gives us a chance to enumerate the many notable public figures who are/were lefties. It helps us to feel not so…you know…ten percent of society. Maybe we’re insecure and we need to be able to tell people “Hey, look! so-and-so is left-handed, so I could be a famous such-and-such one day too, you know!”

I used to just say “Well I’m left-handed so that means that I’m in my right mind,” a reference to each hemisphere of the brain controlling the opposite side of the body. Not only is the division of labor between the left and right brain at least a bit muddy, but I already told you how I feel about the implications of the word “right” in all of this.

Lefties do tend to be more artistic, creative dreamer type people, and righties tend to be more technical, analytical thinkers. But technical and analytical do not necessarily equal “smart”, and blanket statements like those can never be entirely accurate anyway. It’s like saying “girls are smarter than boys” or vice versa. You say it enough though, and some might start to believe it. And when left-handed kids start to realize how few of them there are in the world, they might start thinking there is something wrong with them. And there is a point in your life when being “unique” is a small consolation.

I was born with spina bifida. My parents were told early on that as a bi-product of the condition, I’d likely have difficulties with math and other analytical brain function, which proved very accurate. You take that, along with my left-handedness and it is no surprise that I became a writer and not an engineer or something.

There are a ton of other well-known mini-annoyances associated with left-handedness. Some things are just made for the 90%. It’s a fact of life for lefties. You learn to work around those things. In short, you get creative. Or, to put it another way, it’s a good thing you’re in your “right mind.”

Opportunity Comes Once Every 6,700 Years

Today my personal Facebook page gave me a bittersweet reminder of where I was as a freelance writer one year ago. That day last year I posted a link to a piece I did for my first on-going client of which I was particularly proud.

It is bittersweet because of how quickly a string of very promising leads this spring amounted to naught. It was partly a failure on my part to seal the deals, but it also had a lot to do with the emergence of Covid-19. I do my freelance work mostly from home, whereas the leads were customer-facing places of business. Surely they were keeping a very close eye on the unfolding situation.

Not that I wasn’t. Maybe it was the idealist in me that kept plugging away at leads as though the world were not about to be drastically upended. Maybe it is the idealist in me that keeps me believing that I’ll have those opportunities again, and what keeps me promoting my freelance business. It was still fairly new when Covid came along, so it turns out last year amounted to its glory days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this as the Neowise comet passes by this week. If you aren’t aware of it, the comet will be visible between now and July 24th, and will not return for 6,700 Earth years. If you’re doing the math at home, that is a once-in-almost-one-hundred-lifetimes sight to see.

We’ve all probably been told at some point that certain opportunities come once in a lifetime. Covid or no Covid, a lot of us can’t help but wondering what opportunities we allowed to shoot right past and burn out before our eyes before Covid came along and made it all kind of irrelevant. That’s not something one ought to dwell on, and I won’t.

I don’t think that last summer was my only window when it comes to local freelance writing. Because I know that commerce will bounce back, one way or another. It may not look like it did last summer, but we will recover. So I hope that when my fellow local business owners get back on their feet, I will be able to connect with them and help them in that recovery.

For tonight, I think I’ll head outside and sit under the stars for a while and take in a celestial spectacle. At least of that one I can be certain this week is my one chance in this lifetime. I don’t want to miss it.

…But Listen To The Color Of Your Dreams…

Okay, full disclosure, I only titled this post as I did as an excuse to make a reference to the Beatles. This post has nothing to do with them or music or anything. It does have to do with the creative process.

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid, so brimming with little nuggets of information that it is a self-contained story that demands to be told? I had one in about 2006 when I had a dream that I was in New York City outside the Dakota building waiting to get an autograph from John Lennon. No seriously this post isn’t about the Beatles. The dream turned into the first draft of a novel. I’m still not satisfied with it so it’s still a draft. I’ve had stuff to do. The point is that tiny little vignette turned into an entire novel.

I have another novel I started working on well over a year ago after a visit to New Orleans but set aside quite a while ago after hitting a brick wall creatively. Then, a few nights ago I had another one of those dreams that was so lucid that it demanded attention, and I knew as soon as I awoke that it was the next piece of the story I have to tell. Because the dream was a crystal-clear scene from a specific spot I’d been to in New Orleans, and a face in the dream was just as hauntingly clear. It was a New Orleans musician, a subject to which my story intimately relates. It was like the dream was grabbing me and shaking the next phase of my story out of me. I wasn’t about to ignore it.

Stories are like that. They come to you one chunk at a time. Each chunk, when it comes, gives you a giant leap forward. So listen to your dreams. Use them. Especially if a story you are trying to tell is really weighing on your mind but you can’t quite get it going. Your dreams are what is beneath the surface of your consciousness. Maybe these bits that come to you in a dream are so strikingly perfect sometimes because you’ve given them time to gel while you’re only sleeping.

Certainly I can’t wait around for that kind of inspiration to strike me while I am freelancing, but inspiration shows itself in various forms, thankfully. I listen for it.

…And Be Sure To SMASH That LIKE Button.

Have you noticed a trend in marketing, usually in videos on platforms like YouTube, where the pitch for engagements (a LIKE, a share, a comment) is getting much more aggressive?

It used to be “…and be sure to share and like…” and then maybe it became “be sure to hit that LIKE button…” Then the big thing was an appeal to “SMASH that LIKE button!”

It’s all very ‘roid rage meets social media.

MMA meets marketing.

Spike TV meets…..well that’s not even a thing anymore.

The point is that its over-the-topness allegedly makes the content seem edgy and exciting — urgent even, when really it isn’t.

The only true way to ensure your content will get in front of as many eyes as possible is to actually make it engaging first and foremost, but also meaningful and useful. It has to pull them in. It has to show them who you are make them believe in the work that you do. Giving you a LIKE and a share is a commitment. One’s reputation is on the line when they give your work such an endorsement. You have to earn that!

If the content you are consuming requests that you smash anything, that does not necessarily mean that it lacks substance, but personally I am not inspired to confidence in the content when I am asked to smash the LIKE button before I’ve actually viewed the meat of the content. Frankly I am uncomfortable with how often that is where this appeal is made. It is basically telling you “Smash that LIKE button and then I’ll show you whether the video warrants any such enthusiasm.

Anyway, now that I’ve given you the opportunity to read what I’ve got to say on the subject, if you feel it is of any value, I want you to DESTROY that LIKE button and OBLITERATE that SHARE button! While you’re at it, head on over to the Dailey Freelance page on Facebook and DISMANTLE that SHARE button as well. Come on!

Famous Last Four-Letter Words

My wife drives us to and from work each day. Recently an incident on our afternoon commute almost resulted in my last words on Earth being a string of profanities that I will not enumerate here.

Not important.

An oncoming vehicle had entered our lane, and all that prevented the car from occupying the same space as ours, an impossibility that nature would have quickly resolved with our death or mutilation (to paraphrase Sheldon Cooper) was my wife’s cat-like reflexes. She glanced to our right and finding the other lane clear, swerved.

Apparently we lived.

I don’t want to say it was one of those moments of clarity when suddenly I began to re-evaluate everything I was doing with my life and how I was spending my time and whatnot. Of course those things did kind of run through my head, but I don’t want to subject you to cliches right now.

Really it made me think about one’s final moment. Did I want that string of profanities to be the last words my wife heard me say? What if my panic caused more distress for her in that moment? What if my panic in that moment robbed me of calm? What if my tendency toward panic robbed me of calm on a daily basis?

This post is really about every moment, up to and including the final one. That car charging toward us in our lane was a big ol’ horrifying reminder to use the tools that I know I have at my disposal to maintain my cool under any circumstances.

Not to get all metaphysical on you.

I’ve long felt that I am not a “die with my boots on” kind of guy. I want to know it is coming and be at peace with it all. I don’t need my last words to be like those of Sir Isaac Newton, who is alleged to have spake thusly on his deathbed:

I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

But, you know, something like that.

I’d like to be known as the kind of guy who could turn a phrase in a pinch, or even not in a pinch. The problem is that I have also long felt that I am a better writer than I am a speaker. I need to have time to consider my words.

Maybe I have been reading too much lately about Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel, two baseball clowns who, though they had a knack for saying things in a very – shall we say – unique way, if you knew them at all or if you were paying attention to what they were saying, you knew that what they said made perfect sense. How else do you explain the existence of the terms “Berra-isms” and “Stengelese”? These guys seemingly just blurted stuff out and it was often pure gold. They spoke a language with its own logic.

I just want to leave a better legacy than a string of profanities. I mean they have their time and place, to be sure, and they can be quite fun. In that moment on our afternoon commute that day though, it probably would have been better to have someone else write my script for me. But no. That would not do. Because that string of profanities was me being my most authentic self in that moment. Maybe I could have used a little help cleaning it up a bit, making the most effective use of those swears as possible.





Writing For the Sake Of Writing, and For Something Bigger

My mantra is “I’m a writer, and writers write. So I write.” I’m paraphrasing some old advice from a dear friend.

I am a freelance writer but I started this blog just to keep working on my writing chops in between client work. And for a long time it really did give me the motivation to just write for the sake of writing. Funny, but lately I’ve been fighting off a nasty case of writer’s block. It’s hard being a commercial freelance writer when everything is closed indefinitely. So you’d think right now would be the time to get plenty of writing for the sake of writing done.

Alas.

This blog is called the “Dailey Weekly” and I almost never fail to write something here weekly. But last week I did and I’m kind of past my self-imposed deadline for this week too. And it isn’t just writing. I am finding that with many aspects of every day life on hold, it often feels like there is less to talk about. Maybe it is a bi-product of almost the entire news cycle and the monologues of late night talk shows being dominated by COVID-19, and by extension a great deal of our every day conversation being infiltrated by the subject.

Let’s face it. There is a whole lot less “What did you do today?” and much fewer immediate plans being made. That tends to carry over. I would not want this blog to become COVID-19 Central. I wouldn’t subject my readers to it, and I don’t think I could do it to myself either.

But an increasing number of of business owners are now able to get back to work and are trying to maintain a connection to their customers. So I’ve recently decided that going forward, until our economy regains stability, for every piece I write for a client, a part of my fee will go to this “Adopt a Healthcare Worker” initiative in the clients’ name.

For as long as it takes for that stability to come, or as long as the “Adopt a Healthcare Worker” initiative runs, whichever comes first.

Lightening the load for a local health care worker who is carrying a lot on their shoulders right now will make me feel like I am doing something useful to my community. It will re-motivate me to write because I will be doing it for a cause well beyond myself.

I hope you and those you love are doing very well.

Because I’m Not a Blogger.

I’ve recently changed the name of “Dailey Freelance Blogging” to, simply, “Dailey Freelance” for a simple reason. It is for this very simple reason that I have always kind of been uncomfortable with the name. But I had business cards printed up and everything so I’d stuck with it. But since my business and everyone else’s is experiencing some downtime currently, I thought I’d make the transition.

The very simple reason is that I am not really a blogger.

Wait, though. I’m not a fraud or anything. It’s just that the clients I have had, I have written things for their blog, but I am hands-off as far as the actual blog is concerned. I write the words, I turn them over to the client, and they do as they will from that point on.

I do provide suggestions of topics for future blog posts, which I would then write. Anything more would be overstepping the boundaries, as it would require my being given access to the clients’ website dashboard. Most business owners have a decent handle on how to use the blog if they have one. They just lack the time to write, and that’s why they call on me.

I know what you’re thinking. You are reading this on my blog. So I’m a blogger. Well I do use this blog to make you aware of my service and show you what I can do. But that service – what I do – is writing.

The new name is not only more accurate, but it will also save me a lot of time. Those of you who are interested in a service like mine know exactly what a blogger is. But I have spent a lot of time explaining to others what a blogger is and does.

But “freelance” is sort of a vague term. For clarity’s sake, I was going to switch it over to Dailey Freelance Writing, but that would be “DFW” and I’m in a wheelchair and I already get enough people thanking me for my service even though I am not, in fact, a Veteran of Foreign Wars. I’m serious. I’m not trying to be funny.

So anyway, welcome to Dailey Freelance.

What the Beatles Taught Me About the Value of a Second Draft

The Beatles, according to many, were the greatest songwriters of all time. I’m not here to argue that. The point is, great as they were, it did not always come easy to them.

The melody for “Yesterday” famously came to Paul McCartney in a dream. So he didn’t forget it, he shoved in the first words he thought of, which happened to be “Scrambled eggs/Oh, my baby, how I love your legs,” and so on.

I’m serious.

When McCartney and John Lennon first wrote “Drive My Car” it included the chorus “I can give you golden rings/I can give you anything/baby I love you.”

It’s trite, and it’s a massive cliche, and the Beatles knew it. But they liked the tune, so they went back to the drawing board. In the end, what they came away with was an anthem for women’s empowerment. The “girl” in the song was the VIP and the guy was her driver.

I think we can all agree that the final drafts of both songs were far superior.

Later, in “Paperback Writer” McCartney sang “I can make it longer if you like the style/I can change it ’round but I wanna be a paperback writer.” Clearly he understood that you aren’t always finished when you think you are, and it isn’t always brilliant when you think it is. Sometimes you just need to run a comb through it and tweak a few lines here and there. Sometimes you need to run your manuscript or lyric sheet or whatever through a shredder and start over. Either way a second draft can bring a freshness, a vitality to the piece.

And that’s just the writing process. When they got into the studio, they, like most recording artists, would do multiple takes of a song. The demo was the rough draft and each ensuing take was another “draft.”

In 1968, George Harrison brought a song to the sessions for the White album called “Not Guilty.” It is well documented that the Beatles recorded about 100 takes of the song. Literally. Many of them were partial or just false starts. But still they kept at it until they got it right. To top it off, after all that work they didn’t put it on the album!

It disappeared until 1979 when Harrison put it on his own album.

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” began as a very different song than the one they eventually released. They tried countless variations, but it was missing something, particularly in the intro. Then one day Lennon walked into the studio, went straight to the piano and banged out what would become the song’s famous opening.

It took a lot of work, but in a moment of frustrations/inspiration, it morphed into one of their most beloved tunes.

In 1969, according to Lennon in typical hyperbolic form, the Beatles recorded “a hundred million” takes of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” yet another McCartney number that was not held in high esteem by Lennon or Harrison. McCartney was convinced it was strong enough to be a Beatles single.

In fact, not only did Lennon and Harrison not appreciate it, it is often cited by fans as one of their least favorite Beatles tracks.

That’s three very different outcomes for songs given multiple takes (drafts). But in every case, the result was appreciated by someone.

I’ll be honest. When I am writing on this blog, I don’t very often write a second draft. Especially with long posts like this, I edit and improve it as I go along. But I’m not letting it sit for a day or two and coming back to it with fresh eyes. I absolutely do that when I am writing for a client. Because they expect my best, for one thing, but also because I know that you can always improve a piece you’ve written. There is always going to be a more colorful, more insightful way of saying something.

But when it’s finished, you just know. And at some point you’ve got to release the album.

The Company Vehicle

I got my new wheelchair last week. It came with significant improvements, which I specifically ordered. I originally told them I basically wanted the Batmobile of wheelchairs, but it seems my insurance wasn’t real keen on that concept. So this will do.

  • I hardly ever use the brakes but when I do need them it is good to have a dependable and easy to use mechanism. This chair’s brakes are a spring activated situation, so a flip of the thumb is all that is needed to lock them.
  • The front wheels are wider than I’ve ever had before. So the many potholes in the sidewalks and roads will be much less of a hazard.
  • The footplate is tucked underneath significantly in comparison to my old chair, making me much more mobile in tight spaces.
  • The frame of the chair itself is minimal, making it much easier to keep clean. Though the existing bars are beefier than the ones on my old chair, the minimalism makes it much lighter.

I’ll be able to move very well in it once I master driving the thing. It is going to take some getting used to. I had my old chair for over 11 years. So though it was getting a bit creaky, I had driving it down to a science. I knew how flicking a finger against a spoke, or pressing a palm against the side of a wheel to slow one side down just so, could help navigate certain types of terrain.

With a new cushion and new tires, I’m pretty well set to take on the world this spring and summer. I plan to put on a lot of miles, as I do every year once the weather gets warmer. Especially this year as on evenings and weekends I’ll be pursuing my side project ever more seriously. You see, by day I am a mild-mannered insurance marketing agent. Outside the office, I am a freelance writer.

I ordered my chair painted dark purple to match the logo for my freelance writing business. I call it “the company vehicle” because I plan to put on some significant mileage rolling around my home town, getting to know my fellow business owners and offering my service, throwing some business cards around. You know.

In my work as a writer, I am driven by three things:

  • I am a writer. And writer’s write. So I write. Not only do I have a love for communicating in writing, for crafting a phrase that reaches people, but it is an inexorable part of me. It must be done.
  • A great and ancient lineage of poets and story tellers is represented by my family name, Dailey. That is why I called the company simply, Dailey Freelance.
  • Today is National Wheelchair Day. And though I don’t try to make it the headline, I never shy away from the fact that I am a disabled business owner. It is important to me to represent that because the kind of world I’d like to see, that I’d like to help create, is one in which disabled people are putting their talents and contributions on full display.

So I write. Because I’m a writer. And writer’s write.

Finding Your Life’s Work, Your Legacy, To Echo Through the Ages

My wife and I watched the Oscars last weekend. I’m not real big on the pageantry of it all, or the trophies as a reward for art, and frankly the speeches can get rather inane. Even when the winners try to use their platform to say something of substance. Even so, someone said something that caught my attention.

I wish I’d written it down, but what it boiled down to was that everyone in that room were artists, and as such, they were a part of a lineage that went back to the dawn of civilization.

Inspiring.

Not only did the observation tie each of them to the history of Hollywood (and WELL beyond) and all of its luminaries of the past, but it linked them to each other. Technically what they were engaged in that evening was a competition, but they were one, when it came down to it.

As a writer, I know that I have a sort of “pantheon” of authors, poets, and journalists whose works I consider at least quasi-sacred. I’ll bet if you think about it, you do too. Maybe your luminaries aren’t writers. Maybe they make up the lineage of whatever your life’s work is. Whoever they are, it is nice to be able to see your own work as a part of that particular story.

Some people think it is a cliché and an exaggeration but I think we’re all artists. I don’t think that brushing your teeth or drinking a glass of water or shopping for groceries is art. But whatever your livelihood is…whatever enriches your life…whatever you do to tell the world who you are…whatever your legacy will be…that’s art.

Every one of us has a body of work that is weaved into that same tapestry, that lineage of artists which was mentioned on the Oscars. We’ve been building upon it, adding to it since time immemorial, and we’ll continue to do so.

I’d be deeply honored to use my art to tell the story of yours. If you’re ready to put the story of your business in the spotlight, see my blog’s contact page.

Then let’s do this!