On the Eternal Predicament

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

I was going to write about how I am, once again, stuck in the eternal predicament of getting rejected for being a non-native writer, but, then I put my Sagittarian optimism (yes, I am that hopeless) to good use and found a silver lining in this dark cloud.

My act of kindness came very recently by Linda Formicelli. Those who run in freelance writing circles may recognize her as the mind behind the famous website, The Renegade Writer. You see, I am a religious reader of her blog. She always has wonderful insights and tips for novice writers. I’d like to think of her as more than a stranger, but since we had never had personal contact until today, I will refrain from doing so.

As I told you earlier in this post, I am stuck in the never ending spiral of rejection solely due to my nationality. No matter how much websites like my work, they take a step back and ponder before hiring an Indian. My predecessors (I’m talking to you, people-who-pay-less-than-a-dollar-for-a-five-hundred-word-article), sadly, have ruined any chances for me to make it as a freelance content writer.

Thus, I was wallowing in my misery and cowering in the face of my unsure future, when like a beacon of light in a dark night, I received the daily email from Linda. I hadn’t actually planned to reply to her, and had certainly not counted on her replying to me. However, a little voice in the back of my head said, “She is the answer.”

So, I wrote her a long(ish) email about how I had been stuck in the vicious cycle of content mills until her advice encouraged me to quit. I also told her that things hadn’t been much better for me since as far as my career in writing was concerned, because my nationality was following me around like a dark shadow (this, in no way, is meant to be racist).

A few hours later, I got this ( I would have attached the screenshot, but my internet hates me for some reason. So, I am writing what she said in the exact way she wrote it):

Hi Lavanya!

Your written English is EXCELLENT – no one would know you’re non-native (. . .)

If you have ever been rejected, you would know how I feel presently. I know they say that your abilities are not measured by the applause you get, but by how you put them to use. However, for a person who is just starting out as a writer, and whose capabilities have, unfortunately, been shadowed by something she cannot control, these words were Manna.

There were no bells and choruses of soaring music in my head, but I was left with a smile on my face because an honest-to-God writer had seen something in me and acknowledged it. It was a rush of confidence, and it pushed me to work harder and write better.

I know there is a fat chance she will ever read this, but in the event that you do, Linda, I want to thank you for your words. They helped me tremendously.

Oh look, I ended up writing about my eternal predicament after all. At least I was optimistic about it.

On Being Jobless and Loveless

Okay, my present mental state is not well at all, and I know that because I had to rewrite this sentence thrice before I was even remotely satisfied with it.  Additionally, I am going through an enormous life crisis at the moment, which has, sadly, but prudently, made me question my life and career choices.

Up until sometime ago, I was on top of the world. I had a job, and a very well paying one at that. I was shopping, eating, and writing to my heart’s content, like an over sized bear trying to stack itself up with food for the coming winter. Then, one day, I received an email informing me that my contract with my client (the one who was sustaining my food supply) had been suspended.

As if it wasn’t enough that the news was the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning, I found out that I could not resume work until the issues with the client’s account (the reason for the contract having been suspended in the first place) were resolved. Do you know what that felt like?

I could visualize the money draining from my account, as if the plughole in the metaphorical drain in my vault had been pulled mercilessly. Like an episode in a cartoon, clouds covered my sun, and rain came pouring down on my parade, removing all traces of a fair ever having been there.

This was followed by moaning, groaning, and ultimately, budget cuts. To those who have had similar experiences, I hear you! It was physically painful to watch cash come out of the ATM knowing that none was going back in. A week later, I started applying for more jobs. Sadly, I haven’t heard back from any yet. I am keeping my fingers crossed though.

I think this is as good a time to freak out as any.

I had been having dreams of doing this all my life (well, this and traveling). The calculations in my head were perfect! I could sustain myself by working eight hours a day on my computer my entire life! However, this life change, as I call it, forced me to rethink. I couldn’t depend on freelance jobs as my primary source of income, because there were chances that there often wouldn’t be any. And as they always do, the bills would keep pouring in. I could die starving, or be evicted from my house.

Like a bad apple that every other around it, one thought led to the other, and resulted in what I have now: a mental block. And this doesn’t seem to be doing any wonders for my self-esteem:

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What good is it to have pile upon pile of articles, press releases, ebooks, brochures, designs, guest posts, academic papers, scripts, reports, and other materials when they cannot land me a job? What good is five gigabytes of written matter when I cannot add to it? Add that to the fact that I am a single, unsociable, almost sociopath woman with a roommate loved by the world, my life sucks; and I’m not saying that with the despair of a damsel in distress, but with the surprise of an unaware, pessimistic, workaholic author. A better way to imagine the latter would be to think of Max from the show ‘Two Broke Girls’.

Well, I’m going to keep trying until either my self-esteem or a potential client caves in. Broke and pessimistic is not a good combination.

On the bright side, my desktop looks pretty clean.

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On the Plight of a Non-Native English Writer

So, I received this email a few hours ago:

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Needless to say, there really was no need for the exclamation mark following my name, because the news wasn’t really that good.

Both my articles on a writing site that I recently joined had been denied. The reason: they were not accepting articles from non US- based writers, which was strange, because they hadn’t mentioned any such thing during the sign up process.

That was just Exhibit A. There has been many a time when I had to pass up on good opportunities because the website wouldn’t accept applications from non US-based writers, or take entirely too long to reply to those who sent in test articles. For instance, a few weeks ago, I waited four days for a website to send me a test topic. I even contacted them through their “contact” link regarding the problem, but (like most websites do), they sent me a ticket number, and told me to wait while the issue was being addressed, which is really just a polite way of saying, “Get in line and wait forever!” The bottom line is that I never really received my test article topic, and now can never sign up for the site again.

All of this, coupled with my only too short experience as a freelancer, has ushered me to the sad realization that I really need a Green Card if I am ever to earn significant money by writing. Sure, there are writing websites and companies in my country, but have one look at their websites and you would never want to go back. Most of them have grammatical errors in their mastheads and testimonials, not to mention the fact that they pay in peanuts. No, really, peanuts.

Clients in my country will barely pay a quarter of a dollar for a five hundred word article. They would drain you dry, and look for opportunities to cut your pay. A client I worked for last year gave me twenty five articles to complete overnight, but never paid. Even after the job was done (can you imagine what it feels like writing on the same topic twenty five times?), she never got back to me. I called, texted and emailed her, but she blew me off by saying that the client the articles had been for hadn’t paid her yet.

Three months later, still no pay.

My point is: why, blogs, why?!

Just because we come from a country where the first language is not English does not mean that we cannot respect the rules of English Grammar. In fact, I can recite incidents when I found my writing to be better than many native English speakers’. My fiction blog has thousands of native English writers, but most of them write like a first grade student would.

What saddens me even more is that people don’t really care whether I have a convent education, or that I have a job as a newspaper correspondent and as an editor for an online magazine, or even the fact that I am usually ready to send a test article. Non-native speakers are usually discarded like things you bought but never used.

I think it really only boils down to education and skill, but, sadly, most clients never take the time to test that. Some do, and it pays. Some, on the other hand, start off the job posting by mentioning that they want only native English speakers writing for them.

It doesn’t really get any more discouraging than that.