Showing Other People’s Work

Hello hello hello HAPPY FRIDAY!

Today you’re getting a roundup of OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK, because I’m not the only person making good work right now. ❤️

First, my copy of Tara K. Shepersky’s Tell the Turning arrived in my mailbox this week! I was expecting the chapbook to be beautiful, both in terms of its construction and the art contained within. I was not expecting to find literal surprises between the book’s covers, which is probably the very definition of a surprise (something you are not expecting to find), which is why I am not going to tell you what they are.

I will tell you where to buy the book.

I will also share the book’s trailer:

Second! Alan Lastufka’s first full-length thriller Face the Night is not yet available for mailboxes, but I have an ARC and, a few years ago, served as a developmental editor on an early draft of Alan’s novel. I am very, very excited to see this book launch in early 2022, and hope you’ll be just as excited to read it.

(Note that “first full-length thriller” means that Alan has written and published several short stories in what you might consider the thriller genre, you should read them too, they are all good.)

Here is where to pre-order Face the Night!

Here is the book’s trailer!

Third! The Doubleclicks just released the original cast album for their first musical, Teaching a Robot to Love! I have not yet heard this musical, but I did listen to the song they released earlier this week about a robot who tries to throw a “normal human party” and am very excited to experience the entire show.

Here is where you can purchase and/or stream the cast album!

Here is the video about the normal human party!

If you know of other people doing excellent work right now, let us know in the comments. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

Which debt should you pay off first?

A lot of consumers are trying to pay off multiple credit accounts simultaneously. With all these outstanding balances, which debt should you pay off first?

Credit Cards Dot Com

Benefits of the Citi Double Cash

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you earn up to 2% cash back on every purchase you make and pay off — but what are the card’s other benefits?

Haven Life

What everyone should know about no-exam life insurance policies

It’s possible to buy affordable, quality term life insurance coverage online and without a medical exam. Understand your options to get the right life insurance plan for you.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: November 19, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for November 19, 2021.

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: November 19, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for November 19, 2021.

I’m Teaching a Course on Personal Finance for Writers

If you missed me last week, it was because I was off turning 40 (literally, my birthday was November 4).

Here is the obligatory “this is what 40 looks like“ photo:

Bonus points to anyone who can tell where I am in the photo (not just the city, but also the location within the city), and DOUBLE BONUS POINTS to anyone who can successfully guess where L and I went for my birthday (not just the city, but also the restaurant and the entertainment).

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I should tell you that I am teaching a brand-new course at HappyWriter next Wednesday. Here are all of the relevant details:

Personal Finance for Writers

HappyWriter online course

November 17, 2021, 12-1 p.m. Eastern

Writing takes time—and time, as is often said, is money. The more you know about how to manage your personal finances, the better prepared you’ll be to build your writing career while working a day job, balance freelancing and fiction writing, and reconcile (pun intended!) the work you do for money and the work you do for love.

Join HappyWriter instructor Nicole Dieker as she discusses personal finance as it applies to the writer’s life, from the perspective of a writer and author who has ten years of freelancing experience and three years of six-figure writing income. Topics to include:

  • How much you can expect to earn at each level of freelancing (entry-level, mid-level, expert-level)
  • How much you can expect to earn from writing fiction, whether you self-publish or go the traditional publication route
  • How to budget when your income is irregular and/or unpredictable
  • How to deal with taxes, business licenses and all of that legal stuff
  • How Nicole increased her freelance income by $20K each year (and how you can use similar data tracking tools to increase your own earnings)

This class is a lunch-and-learn, so feel free to eat while you Zoom! Bring your questions, and be ready to take notes.

If you are interested in taking this class, email me (dieker.nicole at gmail) and I can drop you a link that will get you FREE ACCESS. If you are not interested in taking this class next Wednesday but might be interested in taking the class in the future, I’ll be teaching another session at Hugo House in March.

I’ll share one Bach video in case you’re interested in seeing how my Ricercar a 6 has improved since the last recording, and then you can have a look at everywhere I got published since we last blogged together. ❤️

Where I got published this week (and last week)

Bankrate

Everything you need to know about balance transfer checks

If you want to consolidate and pay off your credit card debt quickly, a balance transfer credit card can help you get the job done.

How to maximize cash back with rotating bonus categories

Earn as much cash back as possible from your rotating category credit cards.

Why I opened 24 credit cards

Thomas applied for his first credit card at 19—and since has opened a total of 24 credit card accounts.

How to get TSA PreCheck using your credit card

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time flyer, TSA PreCheck can shorten your trip through airport security and make your entire travel experience run more smoothly.

Credit Cards Dot Com

Shop small and local: How to score rewards and support local small businesses

Here’s how to improve your small-business shopping strategies, starting on Small Business Saturday and continuing throughout the year.

Guide to The Points Guy app

The Points Guy App promises to be an essential tool for anyone interested in travel rewards.

Haven Life

What widows and divorcees should know about life insurance

You may need to update your life insurance policy after divorce or widowhood. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Vox

Money Talks: The couple who used lessons from 2008 to navigate 2020

Bennie and Krystal Covington have found themselves in a far different place financially than the crash that defined their earlier lives together.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: November 12, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for November 12, 2021.

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: November 12, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for November 12, 2021.

Off to the Right Start

I’ve finally gotten the Mozart to the point at which I can make individual decisions about individual notes — that is, the point at which I can ask myself how do I want each of these notes to sound? and then do the work to make them sound exactly as I want them to.

What I’ve found is that this kind of work takes a very specific, assiduous effort; if you don’t roll the opening chord so that each note is both distinct and balanced, for example, you’re less likely to play the subsequent run in a way that allows each note to resonate in the way you’ve already decided you want it to.

In other words: starting the piece with a specific, predetermined action makes it more likely that you’ll continue making specific, predetermined actions.

Starting the piece with something that isn’t-quite-right leads to additional not-quite-rightness — either because your mind is elsewhere to begin with or because your mind quickly travels backwards to why didn’t that chord roll the way I wanted it to instead of staying on the current problem of how can I play this run the way I want to?

Which means that your first problem is to ensure that you can always roll the chord the same way.

Here’s a video in which I practice exactly that — specifically, getting the development section of the third movement of the Mozart off to the right start. Watch the whole thing (it’s short), if only so you can see the moment in which my focus shifts from how can I play this to how can I blog about it…

Anyway, I’m sure this is a metaphor for life, or something.

If not, it’s an excellent piano practice technique. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

Delta SkyMiles Gold vs. Delta SkyMiles Platinum

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How to check and change your billing address

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How long does a balance transfer take?

Balance transfers can take several days, or even weeks, to be processed. Here’s what to expect.

Credit Cards Dot Com

Is the Citi Premier Card worth it?

This card earns travel rewards and offers perks like an annual hotel credit.

Capital One Quicksilver vs. Bank of America Unlimited Cash

Both cards offer 1.5% cash back on every purchase – but that doesn’t mean they’re identical.

Credit score needed for the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card

Capital One is looking for people who have established an excellent credit history and have built a credit score to match.

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards vs. Blue Cash Everyday from American Express

How do the Bank of America Customized Rewards and the Blue Cash Everyday from American Express compare?

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: October 29, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for October 29, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: October 29, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for October 29, 2021.

On New Ideas

We’re going to start, as usual, with a video — but this time, it isn’t of me.

I’m pretty sure most of you aren’t going to drop everything to watch an hour-long András Schiff masterclass, so I’ll sum it up for you:

  1. A young pianist plays Mozart K332 beautifully. It’s the kind of controlled, virtuosic performance that makes you want to learn how to play the piano exactly like that.
  2. Sir András Schiff offers a handful (pun intended?) of detailed adjustments, all of which are focused on shaping the melodic line. K332 can get a bit ticky-ticky-ticky, especially in the third movement, and his suggestions instantly change the piece into something that is much more interesting to listen to, probably because all of the tiny little notes are now given context.
  3. The pianist immediately incorporates Schiff’s suggestions. Her playing, which was already “perfect,” is now more specific — and the tension/release she adds to her melodic line makes the experience much more compelling for both the listener and the pianist.

I’m also trying to incorporate Schiff’s suggestions, because — as L and I both put it — what else are you going to do with your life? When someone shows you how to do something in a way that is better than the way you are currently doing it, why not give it a try?

Here’s my version; it’s only four minutes long, and you actually get to see me practice.

When L and I talked about what this masterclass video made us want to do next (work harder, work better, find more specific ways of solving problems), I ended up comparing it to what I was trying to do with my writing — because it really does all come down to the same kind of thing, when you think about it. You have an idea, whether it’s part of a freelance assignment or a novel draft or a Mozart sonata, and you want to find the most compelling way of executing it.

In many cases, the most compelling execution is linked to some kind of specific structure — in many cases, a tension/release cycle. Understanding how that cycle works not only helps you use it to your advantage as you write/create/shape, but also helps you iterate your work into “final draft stage” (for lack of a better term) much more efficiently.

This is something I learned how to do, as a freelancer, after years of practice and multiple daily deadlines. This is something I am still learning how to do, as both a pianist and an author. I’m very specifically (pun definitely intended) not telling you what I’m doing with my novel — but I’m telling L, and he’s telling me that it’s some of the most amazing work he’s ever seen me do. He’s also curious whether I will eventually get as efficient at “getting piano repertoire to the performance stage” as I am at “getting freelance articles to the final draft stage,” and what that could mean if he and I were interested in teaching other people how to do similar things.

All of the learning I’m doing right now, by the way, is built on a combination of internally-driven experiments and externally-sourced best practices — which is to say I’m testing my own ideas, keeping the ones I like, and then going in search of even better ones.

That seems like the most important part of this entire post, actually. ❤️

On the subject(s) of learning and best practices and masterclasses, I’m going to be teaching two online classes in November and December. The November class will focus on personal finance for the freelancer (very, very excited about this one) and the December class will be about how to pitch. Both are single-session Zoom courses, and both will include plenty of opportunity to ask questions, learn new skills, and get to know other writers.

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

How to maximize cash back with rotating bonus categories

Earn as much cash back as possible from your rotating bonus category credit cards.

Credit Cards Dot Com

Is the Ink Business Unlimited worth it?

If you want a flat-rate cash back card with unlimited earning potential, the Ink Business Unlimited may be your card.

Credit score needed for the Citi Double Cash Card

You’ll likely need a good or excellent credit score to get approved for the Citi Double Cash Card.

Who should and shouldn’t get the Business Platinum Card from Amex

This Amex card is a great fit for high-spending business travelers.

First six things to do when you get the Amex Platinum

Use this guide as a checklist to take advantage of all the great perks and benefits of the Amex Platinum card.

Haven Life

The Open Enrollment FAQ

You’ve got questions about how to compare insurance plans and benefits packages. We’ve got answers.

Different types of life insurance explained

Many types of life insurance range in cost, benefits and premiums. Use this guide to find the policy that is a good fit for you and your loved ones.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: October 22, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for October 22, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: October 22, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for October 22, 2021.

Three (Full) Mozart Recordings

I made three complete recordings of Mozart’s Sonata #12 in F Major, K332 this week. The first two were in the practice room. The third one was technically in the “practice room,” but we had a few friends over and put out wine and cheese and bread (and grapes and cucumber and dates and figs and nuts and a pear) and made it a performance.

You don’t need to watch any of these unless you really, really want to (the combined video length would be something like 90 minutes) but it’s worth noting that it takes me the entire first movement of the Mozart, in the performance video, to stop fracturing my attention with nerves and start focusing my attention on what I’m playing.

And, to be fair, it was appropriate to be a little nervous. The Chopin and the Stravinsky, both of which I also played during this mini-recital, were so well-prepared that I was able to present the music and be present with the music at the same time.

I was integrated, for lack of a better word, during those two performances.

The Mozart still needs work. You can tell, in the first two videos, exactly where it’s not fully prepared, not fully understood, not fully known yet. I knew that, going in, and I performed it anyway.

And, at various points in the performance, even when I am fully attentive to what I’m doing, it disintegrates.

Which is exactly what it’s supposed to do, at this point in the process. The idea that a performer can somehow pull a perfect rendition of something they haven’t perfected yet, simply by will or emotion or heart or love or whatever, is a myth. A fantasy. The kind of thing we hope for because it means we’ll be able to avoid doing the work.

On the other hand, this kind of low-stakes house-concert performance is an excellent way to show you what you need to work on next — in part because what falls apart is often what isn’t working for some other reason, and the reason it falls apart is because you know it isn’t working yet.

Just like my reading L a chunk of the novel I’m writing (which I did, this Wednesday) was an excellent way to show me what was working and what wasn’t working and I needed to work on next.

It’s all part of the process — and the process works, if you’re willing to both participate in it and process what you learn.

I like the process, even when I wish it would go a little bit faster. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

Chase Sapphire Reserve benefits guide

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an impressive array of travel benefits, from annual travel credits to luxury hotel perks—here’s a guide to help you get the most out of this elite travel credit card.

Why I love the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards offers many perks to cardholders which include grocery shopping, cash back, and more.

Credit Cards Dot Com

A financial guide: Helping your child with a disability become a financially secure adult

Preparing your child for a secure financial future as an adult with a disability.

Haven Life

What is renewable term life insurance?

What you need to know about renewable term life insurance.

How to buy affordable term life insurance online

Buying term life insurance online has never been faster, easier or more affordable. Here’s how to do it.

Vox

Money Talks: The couple that grew up with very different relationships to spending

The two make roughly the same salary, but their socioeconomic backgrounds inform how they view that money.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: October 15, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for October 15, 2021.

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: October 15, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for October 15, 2021.

Specificity vs. Spontaneity

What I really wanted to do for you today was record Mozart’s Piano Sonata #12 in F Major, K332, in its entirety.

That’s my next big milestone/action item/deliverable/whatever with this piece — to be able to play all three movements in a row without, like, starting any of them over.

Here’s how it started:

You can tell, even if you don’t watch the whole thing, that my command of the piece has improved considerably. The reoccurring problem from last month is now solved, every single time I play it. There’s still a bit of wobble right at the end of the exposition, both the first time and during the repeat, but I’m aware of it and am actively working to improve it. (A “known unknown,” as it were.)

Then, at 6:30, I make this gesture.

It’s genuine, but it’s also showy. I think I am genuinely showing off, really — I’m so delighted by how the performance has gone so far that I decide to spontaneously demonstrate my delight.

It breaks the performance. The tiny moment in which I make it about me instead of about the music takes me out of the music, and you can watch me fumble and struggle and resituate (resuscitate?) my focus.

And then I play to the end, and it’s fine.

I’ve written about focus vs. feelings before, and this is another variation on the theme. The spontaneous gesture with unknown results vs. the specific gesture with known results.

Except — I don’t really think it’s that, because when I play the Chopin I focus on making new choices every performance. My interpretation is spontaneous, if you want to call it that, but it’s also considered. Taking a story you’ve learned by heart and finding a way of telling it that will capture both the listener and the specific moment. (Like Lev Grossman’s magic students, I perform the Chopin differently when it’s raining — and very differently when it’s late enough that my nocturne can both enhance and respond to the night that is waiting for the audience, which really still only consists of me and L and sometimes my parents and sometimes you.)

With the Mozart, well — I let myself get in the way. I let my spontaneous emotion-showing become more important than the music. This sonata is not about Watching Nicole Show Off, after all.

That brings me to freelancing — and when I realized it could bring me to freelancing I knew that was what I had to write about this week.

I teach a lot of freelancing classes (I’m about to add a few more to my upcoming roster, so watch this space for announcements), and I often see students wanting to make their freelance work about themselves rather than the client or the reader.

Sometimes it’s in an obvious way, like wanting to pitch a personal story that has emotional resonance to them but hasn’t yet been shaped into a narrative that is designed to connect with and/or benefit someone else.

Sometimes it’s in a less-obvious way, like putting show-offy turns of phrase into an article about the ten best business credit cards.

When you’re writing for a personal finance website, you want your article to read like the other articles on that site, showcase the site’s features, and make readers glad that they turned to that particular site to get trustworthy, useful information about personal finance (and, if you write a really good article, convince the reader to do something that improves their own financial prospects). The article cannot be about you, nor can it be about your writing skills — if it turns into a showcase of your ability to turn phrases and coin puns (pun intended), it won’t work.

And when you’re playing Mozart, you want your performance to showcase Mozart’s music, not your ability to perform Mozart or your personal experience as you perform.

Which is what I learned this week. ❤️

Now let’s look at where I got published:

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

How I got started with credit cards

Dhahran Velasquez-Channer is one of many young people working to build their credit as quickly as possible — and so far, he’s made all of the right financial choices along the way.

Guide to Chase’s Pay Yourself Back

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How to do a balance transfer with Wells Fargo

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Credit Cards Dot Com

Guide to Discover it Cash Back rewards and benefits

If you want to maximize your Discover it Cash Back rewards, you need to know how to take advantage of your 5% bonus cash back categories.

What is a student credit card?

The best student credit cards help college students build a positive credit history while allowing them to take advantage of popular credit card benefits like cash back rewards.

Best high-limit business credit cards

These cards have the perks and the credit limits you need to earn rewards while you grow your business.

What are credit card points?

Many credit cards offer reward points for every purchase you make. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: October 8, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for October 8, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: October 8, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for October 8, 2021.

The Best Choices Come From Knowing

Here is your piano work-showing for this week — and this week, it’s back to Bach:

What I find interesting about my piano work at the moment — I mean, I find at least a billion aspects of my piano practice interesting, but what I find particularly interesting at the moment is the way my ability to make specific musical choices is 100% correlated with the extent to which I know the music.

Chopin Nocturne in E minor? Specific, original choices throughout (and I know the piece so well that I have the capacity to make new choices every time I play it).

Stravinsky Five Fingers? Same deal.

Mozart K332? Getting there, especially with the first two movements. There are still some sections in the third movement where I don’t really know what I’m doing, and because of that the piece sounds less like music and more like a struggle towards music.

Which is also what you hear with the Bach Ricercar a 6. I start out making specific interpretive choices, and then my playing starts to slip from musical to metronymic as I begin thinking more about “what notes come next” than “how to play them,” and at a certain point you see me thinking very, very hard, working and guessing and getting things wrong because I don’t know what I’m doing yet.

Which is fine. The only thing that would be un-fine is if I stopped there and said “it’s good enough” or “this is all the good it’s going to be.”

It’s the same thing with the novel draft, really. If you read yesterday’s Bonus Substack in which I analyze the first chapter of my book, you can see all the places where I (correctly) identify that I’m guessing instead of knowing. Which is fine! I only finished the first draft last week, and I didn’t know half of what I needed to know about the book until I got to the end of that process!

But it is interesting to look at all of the choices that don’t quite fit, in that first draft, and think “ah, those are the spots where I’m unsure of what I’m doing, and guessing at what might work.”

And then, with the Bach and the novel and everything else in my life — social awkwardness, for example, which often derives from being unsure of what I’m doing and guessing at what might work — asking myself what I need to do to put myself in the position to make a better, more informed choice. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

What happens if you go over your credit card limit?

Regardless of the amount, spending beyond your credit limit is generally a bad idea.

Credit Cards Dot Com

Credit score needed for the American Express Platinum card

People with good or excellent credit are more likely to be approved for this luxury travel credit card

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Submission and Pitching Opportunities: October 1, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for October 1, 2021.

Job Opportunities for Writers: October 1, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for October 1, 2021.

On Vulnerability

Part 1

This week I find myself in a very interesting position, because although I have done a gob of work—on the novel draft, which I finished on Wednesday; at the piano; on my chess game—I’m not ready to share or show any of it.

The work, across the board (two key, one chess) has been pivotal.

Is currently being pivotal.

Or maybe pivotal isn’t quite the right word, because that implies I’m pivoting, and what I’m doing is more like deepening.

Clarifying.

Specifiying (you knew I’d get to “specificity” eventually).

I don’t want to share this work with you not because it would be imperfect—goodness knows I’ve shared my errors before, and analyzed why I made them—but because it would be too personal.

In other words, I have arrived at that part of the learning process that must be done on one’s own.

The part where you take on a new level of ownership, and because of that must protect what you’re doing as you work out exactly what it is you’re doing, since a lot of what you’re doing is new—maybe not to everyone, but at least to you, and the last thing you want is some well-meaning reader going “ooooooh I have an idea HERE IT IS.”

This is a different type of vulnerability than the type where I play Mozart for you and point out all of the mistakes in it, because that isn’t really me being vulnerable; it’s me identifying problems I know how to solve and telling you that I’ll keep working until I solve them.

This particular vulnerability is about me digging into problems I’m not sure I know how to solve yet—and the part that makes me vulnerable is not the part where I don’t know how to solve the problems, but the part where a well-meaning suggestion could collapse the original work I am trying to do on my own.

“Original” in this case referring both to the product itself, e.g. the novel, and to the process by which I am attempting to shape and improve it. This is not to imply that I am not drawing from Best Practices; only that I have not gone through these particular practices and processes before, and for now I want the experience to be solely mine.

I mean, there are aspects of this that I’m not even sharing with L.

But I’ll share more, when it’s time. ❤️

Part 2

There’s another kind of vulnerability—one, perhaps, that I am aspiring towards.

L and I were talking about it last night; the kind of vulnerability that comes not because you’re wondering whether or not you will make a mistake, not because you’re worrying about whether what you’ve done is “good enough” (while understanding, consciously or subconsciously, that you’re actually avoiding the work involved in going from “good enough” to “great”), but the vulnerability that is present when you are sharing your best work with an audience.

The emotional specificity that you can offer after you’ve mastered the technical specificity.

The opportunity to say something meaningful within the work, because you’ve mastered the work to the point in which you can make those kinds of choices—and the vulnerability that comes with knowing that the self you’re putting into the work, the ideas you’re trying to share, the connection you’re hoping to make, could be ignored or dismissed or misunderstood.

We saw an example of that kind of vulnerability last night; a performance that was so precise that the musician was allowed to transcend the technicality. In fact, I don’t think we thought about the technical aspects of the piece at all. We were too busy thinking about everything else that the musician was choosing to share with us, since those aspects of the piece were now available to be shared.

Sometimes you see, very clearly, the filter of “uuuuuugh I don’t know this part”—and you spend the entire performance rooting for the musician to succeed (or, if you are less [or perhaps more?] charitable, rooting for the kind of unsuccessful performance that might inspire them to go back to the practice room).

But sometimes the performance or the novel or the painting is so specific that all you experience is the complete, riveting, connection.

And that is a very vulnerable moment—for both the person initiating that connection and the person receiving it.

May we all experience it, from whichever side of the experience we prefer. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

How to pay off credit card debt with a balance transfer

A 0% balance transfer card can help you avoid high APR from an existing credit card balance.

What is a credit card?

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Are rewards credit cards worth it?

Most major credit cards offer rewards—but are rewards credit cards worth it?

Credit Cards Dot Com

What are rotating category credit cards, and how do they work?

These cards allow you to earn high-level cash back percentages on a variety of everyday expenses over the course of a year.

Haven Life

How parents can plan a romantic getaway (without kids)

Tips for reconnecting, recharging, and, most importantly, leaving the kids with the grandparents.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Job Opportunities for Writers: September 24, 2021

We post roundups of writing and literary jobs once a week. Here’s our list for September 24, 2021.


Submission and Pitching Opportunities: September 24, 2021

We post submission roundups once a week. Here’s our list of literary magazines and freelance opportunities for September 24, 2021.

Why Do Problems You Think You’ve Solved Come Back?

We’re going to start, as usual, with a bit of piano:

What’s interesting about this video is that I was pretty sure I had this particular technical problem solved. You’ve heard me play it before, after all—in fact, you hear me play it pretty darn well at the beginning of the video—but today it fell apart when I repeated the exposition.

So I worked it, got it to a point where it didn’t feel like a problem anymore, worked a few other issues in the piece, and started the sonata again.

The exact same problem, in the exact same place.

Why?

At first, I thought that maybe I took the repeat faster than I started the piece—the increase in tempo prompting the decrease in form, as it were.

But the tempo on the repeat is exactly the same as the tempo at the start of the piece. So is the tempo I use on the section in question; I didn’t suddenly speed up or anything like that. (You can check it yourself, by starting the video at 0:30 and 2:40.)

The only thing I can think of is that I’m still not-not-not-not-quite-sure yet. The part that falls apart during the repeat isn’t perfectly aligned the first time, after all; it’s good enough to pass, but the right and left hands are just the tiniest bit out of sync.

So I need to keep working.

Because feeling like you’ve solved a problem after playing a few measures over and over until they are error-free doesn’t actually mean you’ve solved the problem.

You need to be able to play them error-free within the larger context of the piece, consistently, both during the exposition (when your brain and choices are fresh) and the repeat of the exposition (when your brain has the double challenge of not losing focus while trying to make fresh choices).

I’ve gotten to that point with Chopin and Stravinsky, and now I need to get there with Mozart.

The interesting thing about all of this is how interesting it all is. You’d think that running an identical practice session every morning would get dull—scales and arpeggios in every major and minor key, then the Chopin Nocturne, then the Stravinsky Five Finger suite, then the first movement of the Mozart, then the second, then the third.

Each individual unit is structured in the same iterative way; play until you make a mistake, stop, work the mistake, and start the whole thing over.

The part that makes it interesting—thank goodness—is the part where I try to make as many new, true, fully-integrated choices as possible every time I run the piece.

By “fully-integrated” I mean “within the world that the composer has created.” There’s a range of tempi you can use on the Chopin Nocturne, for example, but there’s also a point at which it becomes too slow and a point at which it becomes too fast. There’s a point at which the staccatos in the second movement of the Mozart become too sharp for a piece that has been designated adagio. That kind of thing.

With that in mind, here are the choices I made with Chopin this morning:

It’s as technically and emotionally specific as last week’s recording, but it’s completely different—and at the same time it’s not different, it’s still recognizably Chopin, it still maintains the integrity of the composition, it’s not like I’m putting a “LOOK AT ME” filter over the whole thing.

It’s supposed to be Chopin, after all.

I’m just the instrument. ❤️

The novel draft is ALMOST DONE

I have maybe 1,000 words left to write on the novel, and I’ll need a two-hour chunk of uninterrupted time to get them done. The 600-words-an-hour estimate has proved fairly accurate, though I’ve found it difficult to work on the novel when I only have an hour to work; you feel the clock ticking, and your choices become rushed.

With freelancing, I can get a lot more done during a single hour—I can get a lot done during 15 minutes, honestly—but that’s because the structure is different. With freelancing, I’m dealing with subheds and discrete ideas that can be dispatched in 300-word chunks, not a multilayered narrative that extends itself over a 60,000-word text.

This is also why this new novel has taken so much more work—literally—than The Biographies of Ordinary People, which was three times as long. I structured Biographies as a series of very short vignettes, each which could be dispatched in an hour or two of writing and 5-10 minutes of reading. (This was partially because I had trained myself to write that way, and partially because I knew many readers had trained themselves to read that way.)

Now I’m writing a MYSTERY NOVEL, with a PLOT (and SUBPLOTS) and the moment-to-moment writing takes a lot more brainpower because there are a lot of puzzle pieces in the air or balls on the table or however you want to mix your metaphors.

Anyway.

The draft should be finished next week, probably on Monday, and then I am going to take myself through Maggie Stiefvater’s online writing seminar (half price through September 25, work at your own pace, this is not an affiliate link, I’ve taken other Maggie Stiefvater classes and they’ve all been excellent) and then I am going to START REVISING.

Also, L and I are going out to dinner next week to celebrate the draft being done. ❤️

Freelancers—here is the best financial advice I have to offer

I am very excited to share the newest piece I wrote for Catapult: Financial Advice for the Freelancer. It’s a freelancing/finance FAQ, which I hope will answer a bunch of your questions about taxes, CPAs, LLCs, and so on.

Here’s an excerpt, focusing on earnings (everyone’s favorite part of freelancing):

How much can I expect to earn as a freelancer?

When I teach intro-to-freelancing classes, I tell my students that they can expect to earn between $50 and $150 per piece as an entry-level freelancer; between $150 and $350 per piece as a midlevel freelancer; and between $350 and $800 per piece as they continue to build their reputation and their client base.

If you want to know how much you can expect to earn at any stage in your freelance career, multiply the per-piece rate by the number of pieces you can realistically expect to pitch and complete in a month. Right now, for example, I generally complete fifteen articles each month. Each article is roughly 1,200 to 1,800 words, and my pay rate averages at around fifty cents a word. This means that I can expect to earn $750 per piece on average and around $11,000 per month (pretax).

Go read the whole thing—and then read the list of everywhere else I got published this week. ❤️

Where I got published this week

Bankrate

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Finance large purchases and earn rewards along the way.

Don’t Write Alone | Catapult

Financial Advice for the Freelancer

For our Money Week series, Nicole Dieker answers commonly-asked questions from freelance writers.

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