Sometimes I feel like I’m standing at the bottom of those steps.
I’ve been really lucky: I’ve had the good fortune to publish and sell four of my novels, and I run a freelance writing and editing business as well. I have great clients who love what I do and send me work on a steady basis. What more could I want?
Any of my readers who also happen to be writers know a little something about repetition. As a rhetorical device, repetition can be subtly powerful, or not so subtly. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. King used a little device called conduplicatio, which is repeating a phrase over and over for effect, typically at the beginning of a sentence. Powerful and effective, right?
However, there’s another kind of repetition that can drive you a little batty.
Great, Great, Great Clients
As I said above, I have great clients. They tell me they appreciate my hard work, and I make their editors’ jobs easy. Unfortunately, sometimes being good at a particular thing can make it, counterintuitively, harder and harder to do.
The example I’m thinking of today is writing short articles for one of my favorite clients. They send me batches of work and I do each batch, one at a time.
These batches resemble previous batches, in that the content is mostly the same—or at least extremely similar to the previous batch. In other words, I have to essentially keep rewriting the same content, again and again.
On the surface, that might not seem difficult. But if you’re a decent self-editor as well as a talented writer, you’ll know one thing: there are only so many ways you can say the same thing and say it well.
Rather than treat each new article as an unknown entity, I now refer to the previous three, or four, or five (the numbers keep getting higher). And what I find is that some articles are better than others. Of course.
No client would want you to copy/paste and charge them the same rate, and this great client of mine is no different. The challenge is that, if I’ve already written it quite well twice—and written it pretty well a third time—how in the heck am I supposed to write it as well or even better a fourth, fifth, or sixth time?
The Upside of Not Having a Byline
This type of work is typically anonymous, and that’s all to the good. I would not want bylines on the same content revised and rewritten and turned inside out four, five, six times.
So I’m not writing this today to complain. I’m lucky to still have a business after all this pandemic time, and the challenge I’ve described is a textbook example of a First World problem. I get it.
But still, you can understand why I’m feeling a little like I’m at the bottom of a long staircase as I look at my next batches of projects I’ve already written four or five times. Can’t you?