Blog: Our Reality Show

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  • Reflecting on the Freelance Life

    I’ve always found the creative process fascinating, whether it’s reporting and writing a story, composing and taking photos, or watching a show develop from page to production.

    The end result — the product — usually is less interesting, because it’s “done” and I’m on to the next thing. For years, I rarely looked back at stories I had written or photos I shot. Some find it interesting that I don’t go to every performance of every show that our kids do, or go to the theater every time I see Ben on the road. But I have no burning desire — or the cash flow — to do it.

    Since my father died in 2007, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my childhood and what shaped me as I try to help in the shaping of my children. Today, almost eight years after his death, I am hyperaware of time and the opportunities we have to enjoy experiences or let them slip through our fingers. I understand that creating “art” — if you could call what I do that — allows me to keep his spirit alive.

    Perhaps it’s a function of getting older, or being a freelancer for these past 19 months, but the creative process I’m engaged in now forces me to look back and revisit what I’ve done and where I’ve been on a consistent basis. The daily photos you see here and on my Facebook photo page are a function of reflecting on past work — “Why did I shoot THAT?!?” — even as I’m trying to promote getting more work. And the writing jobs I’m seeking require me to showcase the work I’ve done before.

    As a lifelong fan of history (familial, cultural, and political), I enjoy analyzing and figuring out how past events have shaped and continue to affect us to this day and beyond. A number of the essays in this blog merge those interests, allowing me to be creative (I hope) and analytical at the same time. It’s my way of explaining how my parents, family and friends have affected my life and parenting style, or whether a significant cultural event or watershed moment has forced me to look at the world just a little bit differently.

    When I had a “regular job,” I could easily point back to what I had produced, how I had managed a budget, or how many trips I had taken. When I opened my writing and photography business in July 2013, I started with nothing and was tasked with creating something from scratch.

    The juggling act that represents a freelance life is no easier than juggling the parenting of multiple teenagers. In fact, the parallels are quite striking. You never are away from it completely. You are always looking toward the future while facing the present and — I hope — learning from past mistakes and victories. You alternately feel overwhelmed, grateful, and happy/sad/exhausted/indifferent/victorious — sometimes at the same time.

    Both require you to be on your toes and constantly creative. And, I’ve got to say, I do enjoy that, even if my toes hurt more than they should on some days.

    ••••••

    So, given that preamble, I recently decided to look back at what I accomplished as a professional freelancer during 2014. And I was surprised at how productive the year actually was. 

    Here’s a list:

    • Wrote 30 feature length articles for state and national publications, several of which have come out early this year. At least one featured my photography as well.

    • Regularly updated this blog with additional essays — including ones published on LinkedIn — and photographs.

    • Shot two national conferences.

    • Photographed multiple events in conjunction with Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSA).

    • Had 20 portrait and family sessions.

    • Developed a photo series that I've dubbed “Art & Dance," which led to MSA’s first-ever calendar featuring its own students. We sold more than 70 calendars and my business donated the net profit — $500 — to the school.

    Meanwhile, the Facebook photography page (www.facebook.com/ourrealityshow) has grown to more than 1,300 followers. A website (http://glenncookphoto.smugmug.com) was set up to provide a reasonably priced method for selling prints and digital images of my MSA event pictures. More than 350 images have been sold, more than paying for the cost of the site and bringing in a small profit. I hope to expand the site to include more of my artwork in the near future.

    There’s a lot more where that came from, I’m sure. And now that I’ve spent a few moments reflecting, it’s on to the next project.

    The creative process demands it, as does the life of a freelancer.

  • Back to My Roots

    You’ve heard the clichés: “What goes around comes around…” “Everything old is new again.”

    In some respects, that applies to my current career path. Thirty years ago, just after my high school graduation, I started my first job at my hometown newspaper, writing stories and taking pictures.

    Today, 10 months after my job was eliminated, I’m relying on those skills and building my own business as a writer, photographer, editor, and consultant.

    You can see my photography daily on the blog and my growing Facebook page, which now has more than 1,100 “Likes.” I also write essays on being a stage parent for the D.C. Metro Theatre Scene — also posted here — and have started a series of essays that I call “Not-So-Hidden D.C.,” focusing on lesser-known aspects of our nation’s capital.

    What helps pay the bills, however, are consulting — I started working with a Chicago-based advertising firm on a contract last month — as well as freelance writing, headshots, and event photography. I’ve also been taking photos for the Metropolitan School of the Arts.

    It’s been an interesting time, and one that appeals to my ever-so-ADD nature because it provides great variety.  And what I recently discovered is that the thrill of seeing my byline is something that never goes away.

    Earlier this week, I received two freelance pieces in the mail that I wrote earlier this year. One is the “Money Matters” column I’m writing for my former publication; the second is a piece on chronic absenteeism for ASCD, an organization that serves K-12 administrators and teachers.

    You can find both pieces in the Writing section of this website, which I recently reconfigured to reflect both my past work and my current projects. I hope you’ll take a look.