Tuesday Links (06/04/13)

This 27-year-old repaid $28,115 in debt – in under two years: A lesson in austerity and belt-tightening.

Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills: Aaannnd here’s the bad news. Is it a surprise they call economics “the dismal science”? You just can’t win.

Bosses more likely to be psychopaths, study says: I know, right? Actually this is nothing new, studies about the higher incidence of psychopathy in certain fields have been around for years, and it’s not surprising that someone with minimal empathy and maximal manipulative abilities would rise to the top in certain workplace cultures (if not most). But the top ten lists for careers that attract the highest and lowest numbers of psychopaths are new to me. It seems I make both lists. So which of my two major careers represents the “real” me?

Tuesday Links (01/29/13)

To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe (Dinosaur Comics): “Okay, so we start with a superheated and dense force-unified space–”

The dystopian future of casual games: personalized, targeted pricing and mechanics: “This sort of thing is already happening in retail. Where you are could determine how much an item you view online costs. ‘A Wall Street Journal investigation found that the Staples Inc. website displays different prices to people after estimating their locations. . . If rival stores were within 20 miles or so, Staples.com usually showed a discounted price.'”

Care2 Blog Weekly Roundup (12/15/12)

Yes, I’ve been doing some (mostly) holiday-related writing, lately, as my day job has slowed down just a little bit this month. I hope to do a few more posts at Care2 before New Year’s, should the opportunity present itself.

Can Lazy People Make the World a Better Place?

Why Are There So Few Female Game Creators? The Internet Responds

5 Wars More Important Than The War on Christmas

Five Reasons Not to Buy a Puppy for Christmas

The Family Dog Was a Wild Wolf All Along; What of It?

Tuesday Links (10/30/12)

Email Is The New Pony Express–And It’s Time To Put It Down: “Email . . . may just be the biggest time killer in the modern workplace. Here’s where companies are headed next.”

The Saga of Epsilon and Zeta:The story of the seemingly never-ending 2005 hurricane season.

How to Eat a Triceratops: “Step two: tear the head off to expose the tasty neck muscles.”

Tuesday Links (09/18/12)

The Cheapest Generation: “Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy.”

The Batman: The Animated Series Rewatch: “1992 was also the year Batman Returns premiered and the influence of the Tim Burton Batman movies is present throughout the series, especially in the music, the setting, and the general atmosphere of the show. The creators of the show fused that sensibility with an animation style inspired by the Max Fleisher Superman cartoons of the 1940s (which, if you haven’t seen, I highly recommend) to create a style they referred to as ‘dark deco.'”

Care2 Blog Weekly Roundup (02/25/12)

Not much this week, I’m afraid. Only two new posts since last time, and, in actual point of fact, both were written at the time of my last roundup. They weren’t included only because they weren’t published until later in the weekend. I’ll try to do better next week.


Wealthy, Foreign-Born Parents Think US Public Schools Fine

What is “Almost Rich” Anyway?

Becoming a Real Writer: Getting Paid for Copywriting

It’s not as easy nowadays as walking into a newspaper office and impressing the editor-in-chief with your spunk. The newspaper and magazine industries have both been in decline for years, a decline that was certainly exacerbated by the financial crisis in 2008, but can trace its roots to the increasing number of people getting their news online, and a certain amount of uncertainty about how to make money this way, and pay their writers at the same time.

If, like me, you don’t have a degree in journalism, or some kind of related education, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get one of these traditional writing jobs, at least right off. Actually, the odds are against recent graduates of those programs, as well. There just aren’t enough staff jobs to go around. But that still leaves freelancing.

Freelancing involves getting paid by the assignment. In fact, many of this work won’t be assigned at all, but written in advance and then pitched to potential buyers. There’s plenty of unpaid work for a skilled writer, but if you’ve been doing this for a few years, and think the copy you produce is of a consistently-high quality, maybe it’s time you got paid for it.

Having said that, if you’re just starting out, you need to take anything that will pay the bills. Don’t sit there starving because you refuse to let your work be published anywhere other than National Geographic (which would probably be about the pinnacle with respect to my writing interests).

There’s a lot of work out there producing ad copy or basic content for informational or business sites. For example, a banking web site may want to hire a publicity team, which will in turn require copywriters, to create a series of articles on the different types of accounts they offer. Informational/instructional sites may want a tremendous volume and variety of material, on everything from cooking tips to financial advice to homework help.

You need two things: pre-existing areas of expertise (or at least solid research skills), and technical writing ability. If they want their copy to be AP style, you need to be able to produce copy in accordance with that style guide. If they want Chicago, that’s what you have to come up with. But when applying to these kinds of jobs, this is where you really take stock of everything else you know, and start using that non-writing experience to get your foot in the door.

Have you ever worked in finance, education, accounting, engineering, with animals, in construction? It’s possible that someone out there wants someone who can write copy on any of these subjects, or many, many more. My science and education backgrounds have both gotten me gigs in the past; more recently, my experience as an investor has gotten me a gig writing about  finance.

It’s all very romantic to say you’re throwing it all away to be a writer, but in reality, nothing should be thrown away. Everything you’ve ever done, including non-writing jobs and training, may be something you can leverage for a particular job. The next time, I can just say I have experience writing about finance, and provide some samples. But this time, I had to draw on knowledge from the non-writing areas of my life.

This is good general career advice. You never know what past job or volunteer experience you can use to help sell yourself for a particular position. A varied CV is a job-seekers best weapon.

Back to School

It’s already back to school time yet again. Rhett Allain at Dot Physics has a nice post with advice to students, faculty, and administrators. Believe it or not, this will be the first time in 25 years that September has not meant a return to the classroom for me (this includes four years as a teacher and 21 years as a student — counting preschool). Other than a major relocation, September will be just another month of work as a writer.

But even if I never teach again, education will always be a major interest of mine. Making education work for everyone seems like it should be simple, but somehow it isn’t. There are students dealing with poverty, abuse, English as a new language, medical issues, learning disorders, or simply a teacher whose style doesn’t match with their own. Yet with few exceptions, they have more say over their own educational path than their teachers, parents, national leaders, or anyone else. Like Dorothy in Oz, the ones that beat the odds realize at the end, they had the power all along.

Indepedence, determination, initiative, stamina . . . this is all it takes. But no one develops these qualities overnight, and it’s a much tougher challenge to try to develop these qualities in someone else. This is where it gets complicated. And this is where I call bull on those pundits and politicians who claim a single, Magic Bullet solution to a “broken” educational system (e.g., charter schools, standardized testing). If there were any single thing that worked consistently to turn out committed, independent learners, absolutely everyone would be doing it.