Pen Money - Part 1

The Marlborough Man Meets the Waterman

April 21, 2001

It is no secret around these parts that I am bored with my work.

I'm not whining, mind you, I'm just stating a current fact of life.

Boredom, or the threat thereof, has been something that I have been warned about several times since I graduated from college.

The first time I was flat out rejected by the Peace Corps, and the second time I was warned by my prospective employer that they thought that sooner or later I would find the work boring and quit.

It turns out that they were right, although I never did quit to go open an ice cream store or something like that. I simply found other things to occupy my time, primarily by figuring out how to use computers to do most of the work that bored me to death. I bought my first machine in 1980, and have lived on the "bleeding edge" of technology ever since.

Changes in computers and software has presented an unending stream of challenges that kept the B monster at bay.

That was then, and now I am truly bored. I no longer look forward to new software releases, and increased speed in computing power evokes a giant yawn.

I had thought that the opportunity in San Diego would present enough of a challenge, that I would be set for another 10 years or so. We could not find a meeting of the minds on issues of compensation, and quite frankly, I found their attitude and offer a bit offensive.

Mrs. NSR lands her "dream" job in brain surgery, and then my son and daughter pronounced that they don't want to move anywhere. Period.

Since having her baby, my assistant has only been working 2 days a week which leaves me 3 days to go into the office, put my feet up on my desk and say to myself, NOW WHAT?

Am I Stuck?

I decided that it was my responsibility to "do something" about my current situation and began thinking about how I might manage my life for the next several years. In the thinking I was reminded of a project I worked on a couple of years ago. The project, as it turns out, technically defines me, as a writer.

I confess.

I am a pro, if you consider being paid for writing "professional."

Granted, it was very very technical writing, and included editing thousands of test questions for one of those study aid companies that helps students prepare for national exams. The largest fee came from writing a "case study" that you might also call a storybook problem from Hell. You know the drill, "If an airplane leaves San Diego at the same time a train leaves New York, and the moon is in it's 3rd quarter, how high will the tide rise in Detroit?"

Since I had done some of the work after skiing in Colorado, I thought to myself, "the pay was good, why not look for freelance technical writing?"

Over the years I have accumulated a library of material for my particular industry, and have tried to sell it in mass for years and years. I made my first corporate presentation in 1985, and finally called it quits in 1998 after some middle managers said they would have to try and "quantify" just how my software could help their sales force. Personally I think that they were too chicken to make a commitment, even though 20 of their top producers were shown my material, and they said they would pay for it, assuming the price was right.

So in my searching, I found a company that had placed ads in two places, looking for a managing financial editor and project director. I've kept silent about the whole thing, perhaps because it sounded too good to be true, and I didn't want to be writing about one more "Swing and a Miss."

I sent a resume and got an immediate response requesting a phone interview. The first interview led to another somewhere up the corporate ladder. They asked to see samples of my work and I obliged. They asked me to move to Boston, and dangled a big carrot in front of me. I didn't bite. I told them that I could do the work from my office in Michigan, and we could use web cams, E-mail, the telephone and still get all the work done.

The day before Good Friday I jetted in and out of Providence Rhode Island and met with all the folks involved in the suburb of Marlborough, just west of Boston. New president and COO, looks over a sample presentation I brought and asks: "How much do you work?"

"Work? Really work? Maybe 5 hours a week."

He answers, "You are bored."

"That's why I am sitting here across from you."

He laughed. I offered him 20 hrs a week consulting time. He said, only one problem with that NSR, you will still be bored, and then you will go looking for something else to do.

"How about you give us more time?"

"The money will have to go up. But I want to think about it."

"Of course the money will go up, at the same rate. Let us know. I want 30-35 hours a week, if I can have it."

We shook hands, I flew home and discussed with Mrs. NSR. She said to me: "You know that if you like this, you will give them 40 hours a week anyway, so why not settle for more time. You can work on it during the evening anyway."

I sent an E-Mail on Monday offering them 75% of my time.

Thursday I got my call confirming the pay rate and final arrangements for me to fly back in to meet in Marlborough on Tuesday. If all goes well, the contract will be signed and I'll be off to a new race.

In essence, the Marlborough man matched the full time pay offer from San Diego, and leaves me to manage my own time and continue to work with my clients. The kiddies are happy, the spouse is happy, and I am happy.

Unless there are some contract clauses that try to own the material I have already produced, I'll pull out my Waterman and sign on the dotted line.

Pen money, I kind of like that idea.