VIEWPOINT: FREELANCED THROUGH THE HEART

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Grandma was right. Get a good honest job and things will always go your way. Sure, she was high from the Efferdent fumes, but she had this much pegged -- freelancing is no way to get ahead in the ad world. Is this what we spent four years sucking up to college professors for? At the time, we envisioned ourselves eventually earning a corner cubicle in some huge Machiavellian agency. A place where one's ideas could be robbed and pillaged, knocked unconscious, dragged from their cozy cerebral womb, repackaged and sold to the dubious client by the CD, leaving us to slink back into our cheap, squeaky, some-assembly-required office chairs, Dilbert-like, weeping the sob of a homeless Kosovoian waif. Just like Billy on Melrose Place!

Alas, as a freelancer, even fabricated pleasures of glory are naught. The folks who scam our ideas are often hundreds of miles away, knifing us in the back without so much as a kind word. "Hold still, you serf, whilst I sticketh this knife betwixt thine shoulder blades." Is a little credit too much to ask for? When we're driving down the freeway, and one of our many forgotten concepts suddenly screams lifelike from a billboard, prompting the shout of "I did that!'

Can't someone believe us? Do the kids always have to send loud, wet raspberries from their back seat lair? Does our spouse always have to use the same patronizing tone, droning, "That's nice dear." Nice? It may not be the Mona-friggin'-Lisa, but at least it's not as lame as those Pepsi One commercials with Cuba. Sure, therapists say it helps to put a face on the anger. "That and a St. John's Wort/white zinfandel cocktail," we quip, grudgingly writing the check. The face we keep seeing, however, is that of a former copywriting professor at the university who shamelessly praised the advertising craft as the "rock and roll" of the business world. So, like, where's all the groupies? We work from home, and the only roll we see is the one under Al Roker's chin, as we stare blankly at some arcane morning news show, sipping bad homemade cappuccino, feeling chic in Ren & Stimpy boxer shorts.

Scribing campaigns and scripts as a freelancer is much like fathering illegitimate kids. Sometimes you sit and wonder, "Whatever became of them?" With heavy heart we load creative seed into the fax, never to see their full-grown offspring. That's not to say contractual gigs are totally void of perk however. Submitted for your approval: only freelancers can be in the middle of crafting an epic concept and nod off for hours without retribution; only freelancers are free to draw divine creative inspiration from otherwise benign household sources like an overfull cat litter box; no siree, you can't do all that squatting behind some flimsy taupe cube!

Therefore, even in our darkest hour, we whose synapses are for rent must rise up. Let freedom ring from every hill and dale! Flee conformity, and in the words of Poe, "Find comfort in this bosom." Now, there was a writer! Plagiarist and pedophile that he was, ol' Ed wasn't afraid to parlay his freelancing into a chaotic career of denial, self-absorption and hallucinogen-induced mania! Let the "Tell-Tale Heart" be our guide, and pledge to brutally remove the beating heart of the next spot-pirate to violate us; to bury it under the floorboards as a testament to the plight of the modern-day freelancer! Maybe then, and only then, will the many come to grips with the pestilence endured by the contractual few.

For those who still don't understand, remember that episode of The Brady Bunch when the time came for the kids to cash in their copious collection of green stamps? The boys wanted a rowboat, presumably to row across the Astroturf in the backyard, and the girls wanted a sewing machine. Watch the episode closely. Note Bobby's anguish in building the card house, and you'll begin to plumb the depths of depravity and disgrace a creative freelancer feels daily. Actually, it's nothing like building a card house, but take it from someone who knows; between freelancers and step-children, the dysfunction and abandonment issues are one and the same. u

Patrick Code is a dysfunctional freelance writer with childhood abandonment issues who somehow nailed a copywriting gig for a Midwest radio network based in

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