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Writer, editor, would-be novelist. Stunningly mediocre martial artist. Friend of technology. Avid traveler.

My hard lesson that low-wage work does not mean low skills

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

When I was 19, a McDonald’s manager paid me to quit.

I was awful at my job. With the exception of the fry station, I was roundly horrible at every task I was given. I couldn’t keep up with orders on the grill. My order assembly was a disaster, always with items missing. I daydreamed and dawdled at the dish sink. They didn’t dare try me out at the cash register.

Everything in the back of the restaurant was streamlined, push-button, with easy-to-follow instructions. A TV and VCR were set up in the break room so we could watch training…


TECHNOLOGY

I never worried about internet until I moved to a rural community. Now it’s a constant aggravation.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

When I moved out of Boston in March 2020, with the pandemic at my heels, getting enough broadband bandwidth to work reliably from home wasn’t the biggest worry on my mind.

It wasn’t even too big of a concern a half-year earlier, when I’d started looking for a house to buy. In the hazy summer of 2019, I’d simply been enchanted with Vermont’s natural wonders and its laid-back vibe, a stark contrast with Boston’s buttoned-up mentality.

I realized that I didn’t have to keep struggling with Boston’s traffic — at the time, on track to become the worst in the…


Freelancing

You’re working at a trade. Pay for the things you need to do the best job.

Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

The whole world is changing, culturally and technologically, faster than we ever thought it would. And that means the tools a writer uses to do their job are changing, too.

My mother-in-law recently called me cheap, to which I replied, “I’m frugal.” But there’s some truth in her accusation: I’m currently wrapped in a blanket as I write this, reluctant to turn up the thermostat during this chilly spell and use up heating oil.

Still, my fingers are curled around an ergonomic Bluetooth keyboard and my laptop is safely ensconced in a docking station. Both sit on an adjustable-height desktop…


We’re beating back Covid-19 with vaccines. Why not Lyme disease next?

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Living in a Lyme hotspot, the Northeast U.S., makes every trip into the woods a little bit fraught. It’s especially so this year, because the tick population exploded in the spring. In late May, I went on a quick two-mile hike around a nearby pond and emerged from the brush with no less than nine ticks skittering over my boots and trouser legs, bug spray be damned.

It’s become a routine for me to stand at the edge of the woods, stamping my feet and slapping my legs and arms. It’s a small comfort that everyone who sees me knows…


Pandemic-driven newbies are inundating popular trails and campsites. Here’s how to coexist peacefully.

Photo by Brooks Rice on Unsplash

Last year, photos of Max Patch, a grassy meadow on the Appalachian Trail, set off gasps of shock from experienced hikers. Trash was strewn everywhere. Discarded beer bottles, tents and bedding littered the clearing.

When I first glanced at the photo online, I thought the accompanying article would be about a tornado hitting a campground. It was shocking to read that this was just plain old trash, left by trashy people who had no regard for others that would be using the site. …


FREELANCING

Why shifting to an hourly rate helps you and your clients

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Last year, after a review of my business plan, I made a huge shift. Rather than negotiating different prices for different writing assignments, I set a single hourly rate and stuck to it.

And you should it, too.

Why? So you won’t starve while learning how to accurately estimate the time you actually spend on a writing project.

The Case For Not Starving

One of the most frequent errors that new freelancers make is underestimating the time needed to complete a project.

While it’s okay to price yourself slightly below market to gain a competitive edge early on, it’s not okay to dip way below…


Pay attention to how you write headlines

Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash

What’s in a headline? Almost everything, if you write it correctly. When you write a headline describing your brand-new Medium post, you’re carrying on a tradition that goes all the way back to 18th-century printers hanging their broadsheets out to dry.

But what is truly “correct” about a headline in a world saturated with media content? That depends on who you’re telling the story to, in which format. The challenge is to grab a reader’s eye — but not in a way that’s unexpected.

I’ll show you. I picked a topic and challenged myself to write a headline about it…


Exercise

March up to the weight rack and get started

Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

I am not a confident athlete. I love playing different sports, but walking up and trying a new exercise or joining a new sport takes a monumental emotional effort on my part.

Weight training was something I wanted to get into for years. But I held myself back from it, for a ton of reasons mostly inside my own head.

It took two kickers to finally get me into weight training:

  1. Breaking my ankle in 2018.

2. Getting myself to a gym.

And once I did that, I learned, again, a simple truth: Doing something is a hundred times better…


ENTREPRENEUR

Coming to terms with your own negative vibes

Photo by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash

This guy is going in one of my novels someday, I thought, as I sat across the table from him in the upstairs section of an otherwise empty, dark-paneled Chinese restaurant, watching him berate the waitress.

“This isn’t the dish I ordered. I wanted a lobster sauce, not a lobster. And not a clear sauce, a brown sauce. Take this one back and give me what I ordered!”

He turned to me before the waitress had even gotten out of earshot. “See, that’s how you have to handle people. You have to show them you mean business, and never take…


How harnessing your body’s energy can improve productivity and change your life

Photo by Candice Picard on Unsplash

I’ve become a devotee of the coffee nap.

I used to nap daily for 60 to 90 minutes, stretching out on the sofa in my apartment with the TV turned off and the curtains drawn shut. It was something I’d picked up on my own during my days working in an office: I was a zombie from about 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. every day, but if I could put my head down for a few minutes, I was far more productive through the afternoon.

Switching to coffee naps has been a game-changer. I am able to nap for a much…

Samantha Bookman

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