Friday, September 1, 2017

For about 15 years, I helped feed my family by writing a stream of freelance articles for newspapers and magazines. A few books in there too.

They are not waterlogged, like some peoples' lifelong mementos at the moment, but I am confronted with boxes and boxes of bylined clippings as a result of doing what freelancers do.

Namely, you save your clippings, make copies of the best ones, in the event that a potential future editor wants to read samples. That's your lifeline to future stories--- your reputation for past ones.
That was the era of print.

And this is the era of boxes and boxes of bylined clippings, safely preserved for.....?

If I listed some of the places I wrote for, this would start to look like a resumé. I'm proud of that list, but I'm not looking for work.

I was just wondering what to do with the boxes of clippings.

As I carefully prepared them for destruction, I read some of them. Feature stories on a teenager's first cigarette, a teenager's first car. My annual review of the most reliable tax filing guides. Stories about the emergence of audio books. Interviews with best selling authors. Reviews of films, books, performances and CDs by the hundreds. Lengthy features on subjects of then-notoriety. On and on.

I recalled the care that had been put into these works, and the paltry sums they contributed to our checking account. Did I sell myself cheap? Yes.  Did I like seeing my name in print? Yes.

Did I think these pieces might lead to better work? They did, up to a point. I was good but not that good.

In the course of dumping this stuff, a penny for my thoughts.  Not much of the writing was actually worth saving. Much of it was not worth writing. There was always a deadline followed by a check. It put things into a kind of routine. Kept me from being attached to any one employer.

The bulk is amazing. It's going out the door. The term "by Michael Pellecchia" is completely outdated. Now I mostly say it to myself when I put care into things.