My daily work life as a freelance writer is not exactly the stuff of a Clint Eastwood movie. It mostly involves sitting alone in front of a laptop typing away, occasionally relieving the tedium of solitude with a phone call or trip to the gym or supermarket. Yet there are a number of similarities between the life of a modern day writer for hire and an Old West gun for hire. Don’t believe me? Well belly up to the bar, pardner, and let me spin you a few yarns.
The classic Old West gunslinger, exemplified by the “Man With No Name” played by Clint Eastwood in those great 1960s spaghetti Westerns, wanted to do the right thing, but usually had a shady past that may have included some outlaw activity. I wasn’t exactly robbing stagecoaches, but my first freelance writing gigs occurred in college, when I wrote papers for money. Five bucks a page, full refund for any grade lower than a B (I never had to give a single refund). I even wound up doing all the work for one unnamed dorm mate’s freshman writing composition class.
Of course I’d never engage in this type of literary skullduggery today, but it gave me a taste of life as an “independent contractor,” where there are few set rules. And I liked it.
Rescuing the Townsfolk
As portrayed in movies, the Old West gunslinger often rides into a town suffering under the grip of an evil land baron, or corrupt sheriff, or bandit gang. He sets things straight with his wits and his bullets, collects his fee and rides off into the sunset, heading for more unknown adventures.
I’ve never rescued anyone from a bloodthirsty bandit, but I’ve rescued a lot of companies from overly demanding clients who want an eight-page white paper by the end of the week and will end their contract if they don’t get it. I’ve learned to be highly flexible and work quickly in order to take advantage of these opportunities, which come up more often than you might expect.
Since I work in a basement office I don’t generally see a lot of sunsets, but there is always a good feeling when I hit the “send” button on an email containing an attachment that will save someone’s client relationship from the hangman’s noose.
I Work Alone
“The Magnificent Seven” aside, gun slinging has mostly been portrayed as a solitary activity performed by hardened individuals who did not need any interference as they carried out their chosen profession. I have not been exposed to the rigors of the open range, but my skin is certainly tough from the countless edits, corrections and rejections any writer experiences in their career, and I most definitely work alone.
Gunslingers would sometimes combat their loneliness by gathering in a dusty saloon located in some isolated outpost where they could exchange stories of blood and courage. Freelance writers tend to gather in pleasant, softly lit lounges in chic urban areas at monthly networking meetings where they can exchange stories of suddenly shifting deadlines and unpaid invoices. Yeah, it’s less cool.
So there you have some gripping tales of a literary gunslinger, and you didn’t even have to pay me to write these words. Of course I could write up something really good, with more detail and some third-party sourcing, for a very reasonable and negotiable fee.