Unlock Your Word Whore

True story: in college, I took two semesters of Old English* and when my professor first explained “wordhord onleac” I misheard his translation as “he unlocked his word whore” and was enchanted by the notion that one might keep some sort of personal slave for the purpose of producing sentences on demand, and that this person might have to be chained up, lest she (or he) run off in the middle of the night carrying a sack of gold and other prestige goods.

Yes, it’s an awful notion, but that’s kind of the point, The Anglo-Saxons were** pretty awful people. After all, their sole criterion for a good ruler was that he did not, while drunk, slay his hearth-companions. (Now that was a good king!)

And then one day, after I graduated, I started taking on freelance work doing SEO copywriting because I was desperate and hungry and I already had two part-time jobs and the prospect of being able to have a third that didn’t f*ck up my work schedule was VERY appealing to me. Needless to say, I soon became un-enchanted as it dawned on me that I HAD BECOME A WORD WHORE.

I was thinking about this earlier as I was working on a couple of articles for My Word Pimp, for whom I periodically take on copywriting assignments. It doesn’t come up often, which is good, because I’m kind of conflicted about the whole thing.

On the one hand, I am my parents’ child and though they agree on very little aside from the superlative entertainment value of Tom Wolfe’s literary oeuvre, they concur that one should never turn down paid work — a notion to which I still fervently cling despite the fact that this MAY NOT BE IN MY BEST INTEREST. On the other hand, I could probably survive without the pittance that I earn from this gig. On the other other hand, I live in the United States of America, a country that, if nothing else, guarantees that anyone and everyone can end up living on the streets at any given moment, depending on the whims of the oligarchs who run the place. Besides, I am connected — by blood, friendship, and especially by pair-bonding — to a loose network of people who are, for lack of a better word, money-stupid and preposterously unemployable.***

I guess I just don’t want to turn down the work in case, down the road when I am desperate (and I’m sure I will I be), I don’t get any future offers. Sure, I can justify it by saying, “I want to buy My Fella a birthday present,” or “With the money, I’ll be able to further my education” or “Oh, the Boxhound will probably have to go to the vet soon b/c it’s been awhile since she made herself ill doing something idiotic and plus it’s good to have a little extra in the bank,” but that’s not really the reason I stick with it. It’s complicated, but if I had to parse it, I’d say that it involves a potent blend of fear, laziness, and low self-esteem.

But I really hate this $#!+. It chips away at the soul, because — issues of integrity aside, which btw crop up with annoying persistence when one is literally extruding prose regarding the as-yet-unproven, probably unprovable health benefits of dodgy dietary supplements — I now know for a fact that I have a price and that this price is approximately $120. Those dollars make me holler SO LOUD, and that is not really a great thing to know about oneself.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I enjoy the fact that I can make my living doing it, but not every writing scenario is a wholesome one. The day job is cool, because I basically get to read and then spread the word about people’s books and that is a privilege any way you care to look at it. But the copywriting? Yeah, I kind of wish I could turn my word whoring into a less soul-sucking form of supplemental income.

*Because I am such a f*cking nerd, and I say this with absolutely NO geek pride whatsoever.
**”are,” arguably. As an American, I probably shouldn’t say anything given that U.S. foreign policy seems to begin and end with, “Bomb it, see what comes running out screaming and engulfed in flames,” but I swear, it’s like the British have a coin that they flip: heads for genocide, tails for imperialism.
***Not so much my mother and siblings, who will be fine, but damn, everyone else. Aside from POOR DECISION-MAKING SKILLS, all I can say is OMG THE IN-LAWS.
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