The Drought

I think I have to quit my job.

My boss has just informed me my next project’s two months out. Sixty whole days…I can’t do it. I can’t. That’s not what I signed up for, all this waiting.

I feel cheated. Hornswoggled. I had one question at my interview: can I expect consistent work? The answer was yes. I quit my old job on that yes. I compromised on every score—on pay, on creative freedom, on opportunities for advancement—all on the strength of that yes.

Consistent work. That’s all I want. Something to do every day. Life without pleasure’s hardly worthy of the name, but when I can’t eat, when I can’t see, when I’m in so much pain I can’t tell where it’s coming from, there’s still work. I like to work. I have to work.

That took a bleak turn, but in fact, I came here to whine about Upwork. See, I thought I might fill the gap with some freelancing, so I made myself a profile. I got it approved and went looking for jobs, and most of them were like this:

“We are in the market to develop a long term mutually beneficial relationship with high-quality writers. We are looking for ongoing original content/entertaining story creation ASAP that can satisfy our readers and embellish our blogs and websites.

“We need the work to be consistent in terms of quality and entertainment value as books such as: [links to various indie books of questionable quality].

“Some general areas for possible storylines include: paranormal creatures (ghosts, vampires, etc.), magic, fate, secrets, demigods, wars with/between the paranormal, hauntings/nightmares, curses, death of loved ones, seeing ghosts/visions, etc.

“Please be aware of the following prior to sending your bid:

“#1- We insist that *Every Single Sentence* is an original product of your own creative intelligence. We utilize several software programs and websites to ensure that every line of content is absolutely unique and 110% original material. We will NOT condone, accept nor pay for plagiarized content even if it involves borrowing a single sentence in the 25 pages.

“The links provided are for reference ONLY and guidance to you as to our requirements.
EVERYTHING must be 100% unique and created by you and you must be willing to sign a notarized contract stating that YOU and only YOU created the content.

“#2- All material needs to be formatted for Microsoft Word (including a table of contents and synopsis).

#3- We will own all rights to the finished product once you are paid for it. That means we will own the byline rights, resale rights, ownership rights, copyrights and everything else and will require that you sign a contract agreeing to this.

“#4- Your written English work must be en pointe* and 150% on target. In fact, we are exclusively interested in writers from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.  

“For each storyline we require:  

“- A 5-7 book mini “series” with “regular” characters where each story ends in a “cliffhanger” – each ending is a continuation of the last and leaves the reader in awe and suspense for the next story.   
– A complete 1-page synopsis detailing what the story is about (at least 10 sentences).
– About 25 pages per book
– Times New Roman 10 Point Font
– No more than 1/2″ margins all the way around.
– 1.15 to 1.5 spacing

“As we are growing fairly quickly, we will have a TON of work for you. Hence, we are interested in serious, long term people who are dedicated to quality content and love writing stories. We anticipate building a mutually beneficial business relationship with you.

“We are looking to pay $125.00 per story and will pay promptly as soon as each of the 5-7 stories are complete.”

So that’s, let’s see—twenty-five pages in quite a small font, standard margins, single-spaced—assuming a few chapter breaks, that’d be around 20,000 words, for which they’re willing to pay $125. A hundred and twenty five divided by twenty thousand makes…just over half a cent per word, except Upwork takes twenty percent off the top. That means they’re paying exactly half a cent per word. I write about two thousand words a day, which takes me three to eight hours, so I’d earn between five and twenty percent of BC’s minimum wage. Ten dollars a day.

The best job I found on Upwork paid just under four cents a word, which would bump me over minimum wage if I worked fast…except, the client had allocated two weeks on either end for unpaid labour: plot development, outlining, editing, and so forth. Fuck right off.

Who’s posting these jobs?

Who’s doing them?

Checking Upwork was a silly idea. They’ve always been a joke. But I swear they once had okay jobs, gigs to pad out your schedule. Ones you’d leave off your CV, but you’d do them in a pinch. There’s none of that now, just endless goofy crap.

(I’m almost, almost bored enough to do the goofy crap. It might be fun to go trolling, apply for the job, take the job, send twenty-five pages of drivel. They’d be all “this is nothing like your samples,” and I’d be all “yeah, those were from $12,500 projects. You pay $125.”)

…not that I send clients samples from published projects. That’d be a ghostwriting faux pas.

There were too many vampires in Cynthia’s bathroom. She was running out of space. She’d stashed the first ten in her closet, hung up like suits. The next six, she’d jammed under her bed, arranged tops to tails so they’d spoon in all neat. They still squirmed and wriggled, wriggle-diggle, and they snored. She could hear them all night, and she was running out of space. She was running out of patience. She was just too enticing, she guessed, and another one squoze in the window, like “please be my queen.” It was fate.

…I need a new job. I need something to do.

Oh! I almost forgot—some merciful soul brought my protein drinks, so I won’t starve to death. So that’s good. That’s something.

…but I need a new job.

* …so, my English should be dancing on the tips of its toes?

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