This was the first Saturday that prospective buyers would traipse through my house considering it as their own, and I had it immaculate. Walking out back to sweep the patio, I stopped in my tracks. A hundred fish floated belly-up to the sun with a stench to curdle your breakfast. I frantically called the homeowners association who had dumped the new fish in the lake that week. Frustrated with their lack of concern, and angered at the fact that several house hunters were passing us by, I wrote a letter to the local newspaper editor. Surprisingly, the editor emailed me that my fanatical opinion instead was being considered for the editorial page with a $50 payment.
My son failed several college courses thanks to video games, a stalking ex-girlfriend, immaturity, and culture shock that comes with the freshman experience. Frantically I sought professional help for him via an advisor, a counselor, a resident assistant and even the campus police. Armed with new self-esteem, he returned to summer school and made A’s and regained his footing. I contacted NextStep Magazine and queried a piece entitled The Perils of Freshman Pleasures. The editor took the bait and asked for the complete article to the tune of $100.
My college sons and their friends marveled at the number of people they knew on academic suspension after their first year in school. The gap between high school and college loomed larger than they expected. As the recipient of dozens of their phone calls throughout the year about social, academic and health problems by these kids, I felt like I endured as much stress as they did. At the end of the spring semester, I journaled about the frustration of watching them struggle from afar, which prompted me to query College Bound Teen about Twenty College Speed Bumps for their high school readership. Another $100 article.
Landscape Management Magazine paid $300 for an essay where I vented about lawn care specialists not caring about yard maintenance from a woman’s standpoint after one unfortunate gentleman underestimated my expertise and my agriculture degree.
In a previous life as a government manager, I endured sexual harassment on a very intense professional level. At the time, I sold an essay called Ignore the Harassment to a B2B newsletter, Women as Managers, for $75.
Venting is good for the soul. And I’m learning it’s good for my pocketbook, too. Apparently when my world is pushed off balance, I write amazingly well, with exceptional clarity.
My best editorials in the FundsforWriters newsletters I publish each week come from impediments, obstacles, and mental anguish in my personal life. Ranting with a style that seems to enhance my prose, I have garnered some fans who read the newsletter for the opening editor’s voice alone! And this calculates into sales of books and subscriptions for FundsforWriters.
Now when I feel the blood pressure rise, the muscles tighten in my shoulders, or the moisture pricking my eyes from the unfortunate situations in my life, my muse steps up. She used to run for the hills and hide until I returned to normal, but now she understands that adrenaline feeds words on paper. So when my life is amiss, my disappointments frequent, and my anger ballistic, I grab a pen and note why. Invariably there’s a story lurking between the curse words and the tears. And those babies have a pretty good chance of publication based on my experience.
So the next time I’m grappling for ideas or pouting over yet another rejection, I’ll reach back into time when life kicked me in the teeth and remember someone or something that royally ticked me off. I’ll replay each and every scene until my breathing gets a little faster and my cheeks gain a redder glow from memories of mistreatment, pain, or injustice. Because that’s where great material is born – the types of subjects that make editors write checks and help you exorcise your demons.
C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com and author of The Shy Writer: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing Success found at Booklocker.com.