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The green grass of home

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Life must be cushy for the one who calls herself a freelance writer. Well, that's what friends insist - you do what you love doing, at a pace you deem fit, and you're not answerable to any dour-faced boss. . . But don't we know that the grass is always greener on the other side? Welcome to the real world of my mixed blessings.

What could be easier than writing a few articles a week? With my modest target of submitting four articles in seven days - that is, around 1, 000 'original' words a day - it should be a cakewalk, right? Wrong! Take a look at what lies beneath.
Just as the clock strikes ten, with my chores behind me, hubby off to work, the dog contentedly snoozing and nobody to disturb me, I decide to start work on a feature and finish it in one go.

My temperamental PC, which generally omes to life only after about six attempts, cooperates for a change and blinks invitingly. The only problem is that at the sight of the blank page my mind goes equally blank, especially when it comes to ideas - the first crucial thing one needs to get going.

Perhaps a coffee might get me started? I make myself a strong cup and stare determinedly at the page - willing an idea to take form. The coffee helps and I manage to dredge up two brilliant (that's what I think) ones. On second thoughts, I decide to check with the editors lest they've already been done. I mail my ideas to one and call up the other.

I think I've caught her at a wrong time. "No, I don't think that's a great idea, " she starts grumpily and goes on to list several reasons why my idea wouldn't work. Miffed, I put down the phone - as if her own ideas are great, I tell myself! Wasn't her last week's piece a rehash of an older one?

No sooner do I get her off my mind, the phone rings again. It is Affluent Aunty. "You're free, na?" she's certain that anyone who works from home has all the time in the world. For a full half hour she updates me on her horrible bout of gastroenteritis and Uncle's gout. The only consolation I have is that by lending her a patient ear, I have (hopefully) consolidated my place in her will.

Since there's still no reply to my mail, I decide to write a short story - the idea for which has long been in my mind. I type the title and spin out the first few paragraphs when a wet nose on my feet breaks my chain of thought. It is the family pet, Chhotu, wanting his mid-morning walk. I get up and out we go. And yes, as anybody can guess, by the time we return, it is time for lunch.

The morning hasn't been a complete waste of time, I have done some work, written some perfect paragraphs, I tell myself.

But there are still my two 'in-house editors' to contend with. When hubby gets back home, I march him to my PC, certain that he'd appreciate my effort. But I should have known better ! I leave him to read my piece in peace and get down to making lunch.

Finally, I turn to find hubby standing in the kitchen. I grin expectantly. "Great suspense you've built up, " he says. The grin fades - is it any use telling him that I was attempting humour?

But maybe he has a point. Post lunch, I forego my nap and sit down to rework the story to add humour to it. I proceed to do so with remarkable speed for the next hour and a half and nearly finish my piece. But it still has to pass muster with the in-house editor No. 2. Tearing himself from his lifeline - Facebook - my son is already peering critically over my shoulder. "Let me see, " he says and waves me away. I leave to make coffee. And return with the mugs to find him busy on the phone. He, however, signals to let me know he's checked the story and nods approvingly. Ah, now this chap knows what he's talking about, I smile to myself. However, as I check on the monitor, the smile changes to a frown when I see the changes he's made - commas where they were not intended;removed from places where they were;exclamation marks by the dozens and the entire tone and meaning changed. "Who asked you to correct it?" I holler only to have him give me a hurt look, "I was only trying to make it better!"

So much for his help! I'll just have to go through the whole piece all over again and knowing my memory - I know I wouldn't remember my original words. Still I sit determined to get back the original flavour. But just before I start, I give the piece another read - only to discover it certainly reads better, post his corrections. And with it comes yet another discovery - what a boon it is to have these two critics right at home. They pester me, poke fun at me, but - they do reduce the work-load of my 'other' editors!

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