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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Time to write

The pamphlet lured me with it’s promising headline: Do you want TIME to write?

In a sea of otherwise uninspiring literature found at the SPJ InfoMart at the national convention in Las Vegas last October, this one was a grabber.

Ever since I’ve had the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism at OSU tacked on my bulletin board. Sometimes I just glance over at it and sigh. Sometimes I pick it up and try to imagine myself with the time to write only what I want.

But then reality sets in and — resisting the urge to pitch it — I carefully tack it back onto my bulletin board to entice me and tease me some more.

Time to write. You’d think that an independent writer would have nothing BUT time to write. Sadly, that is not the case. I’ve barely had time lately to keep up with Creative Ink. Let’s face facts:

1) I’m a mother and wife first and that means my writing time is limited to those hours when children are in school (typically 8-3).
2) I don’t have the financial luxury of accepting only those assignments I want, though I’m getting better at discerning what works for me both creatively and financially.
3) As an independent, I’m also running a business, which means researching and pitching new “clients,” invoicing and collecting payment, budgeting, etc. So my 8-3 is not always consumed with writing.
4) I’m an early morning writer. Mornings (from 6:30-8), however, are filled with packing lunches, feeding the dog and marshaling my brood to get to the bus on time. In between, I sip my coffee and thumb through the morning paper, but there’s really no time to sit and write.

The Kiplinger Program at OSU is appealing on several levels:

1) It gives Fellows the chance to pursue their passion, whatever that may be, for six months.
2) You’re given a private office in a swanky new building, a stipend and access to extensive university library, faculty and guest resources.
3) You get to tap some great journalistic and intellectual minds, travel to DC to meet other great minds and mentor young journalism students at The Lantern.
4) But most of all you get to think beyond the harried, frenzied existence of hourly, daily and weekly deadlines.

Above all else it’s that last item that sounds divinely tempting. Think of what you could produce if only you had time to, well, think.

This is what the brochure promises:

• Focus on meaningful work that inspires you.
• Work on a public affairs print project of your choice. You may decide to produce an in-depth, multi-part newspaper series, write a shorter freelance article for a magazine or complete chapters for a book.
• Develop close connections with other talented journalists through dynamic retreats, field trips, seminars and other exciting events.
• Step back and reflect on your role in the rapidly changing field of journalism.

Sounds terrific. I’d love to apply. There are several catches, however.

First, you have to live in Columbus. That’s not so bad, but I’m sure my family would not want me away for even a portion of the week, let alone the whole week. Second, you can’t engage in other outside professional work, which would be great except for the third problem: The stipend for six months is $20,000 and that’s supposed to cover your accommodations and time. Travel expenses are not covered. It may sound like a lot of money for six months, but not when you realize that it has to cover your salary and living expenses, the money doesn’t sound so great.

Finally, the FAQ is a tad ambiguous about freelancers applying, something about 20 hours/week and detailed lists of publications, etc. Assembling all of that sounds daunting to a writer who scarcely has time to write.

So I’ll let the air out of that balloon for now and continue to dream about another day when I will have time to write what inspires.

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