Writing From the Right Side of the Stall

Mucking stalls. Freelance writing. How do they differ? I discuss.

Please Don’t Ask Me to Write About …

I haven’t been raining negativity, bitterness and bile down on my gentle readers lately.  And apparently, that has to stop.

It has been suggested to me by a devotee of WFTRSOTS (okay, ‘devotee’ might be phrasing it rather strongly, but there is forensic evidence that she pops by on occasion) that I should share with you some of the topics I’d just as soon never, ever, ever write about ever, ever again.

Is that the sort of thing you’d like to read?  No?  It’s just her?

Never mind, I’m going to forge ahead anyway.  Woe betide me should I disappoint her.  You can be the next one to suggest a topic.  (No, really.  Go ahead.  Let’s see if I can riff on anything a la the late, great George Carlin.  My guess is no.)

By the way, I should probably mention that I have made some headway recently in my ongoing crusade to demonstrate that I can, in fact, write entire paragraphs of published text without mentioning hooved quadrupeds of any kind.  This seems necessary because there are a head-spinning number of editors out there who don’t seem to be able to extrapolate from one of my articles about a veterinary issue, that I can write about medical issues, and who can’t read a piece about a riding vacation and take the great leap to believing I could craft a piece about a boating or skiing vacation.

Between my snowmobiling jaunt in Quebec, back in January, and some agricultural pieces ranging from celebrating the Goat Farmer of the Year to rather more sober discussions of how fully farmers are adopting mobile technology, I have now collected …. ohhhhh, about a dozen clips, I guess …. which avoid horses like the plague.  (Okay, yes, the goats are quadrupeds and have cloven hooves, but the article really discusses the award-winning goat farmer rather than his charges.  Mostly.)

I consider this a minor triumph, but then, I have to take my triumphs where I find ’em these days.

I was also charged with writing my very first infographic a few months ago.  It wasn’t easy, let me assure you.  But the artist quite skilfully made a silk purse out of a (proverbial) sow’s ear …

I would happily write about goats some more.  Or pigs.  Or soybeans.  I’m learning quite a lot about all three.

But please don’t ask me to write another infographic.  It made my head hurt.

Of course, it’s still true that the vast majority of my portfolio — and the archive currently stands at somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2000 published articles — does feature, or at least discuss, equines of one sort or another.  You’d be surprised how much variety there is within that niche:  personality profiles, hard science, event reports and recaps, PR for future events, how-to’s, training tips, health and veterinary advances, a few fluff pieces, even some controversy on occasion.  Maybe I’m not a flak-jacket journalist, but that doesn’t it’s all meaningless trivia (she said self-righteously).

There are few truly new topics under the sun, however.  And there are some old chestnuts that editors seem to trot out every year without fail … depending on we starving freelancers to invent a new spin, lest we all simultaneously slip into vegetative states from the sheer, desperate redundancy of it all.

Some of these subjects, I don’t mind, honestly.  I don’t object to writing about internal parasites, for example.  There’s usually a bit of new science to discuss every few years, which keeps it fresh and interesting for me … and also, although I am easily grossed out by, say, eye diseases (I cannot look at the photos — ick), I apparently have a high tolerance for pondering the life cycles of slimy blood-sucking phylla who inhabit eyeballs and intestinal folds.

But please shoot me, I beg of you, if I ever have to write about the following again:

1. Fencing for horses.  Coma-inducing?  Oh, gawd, yes.  New stuff to discuss?  Pretty much never.  The most exciting thing to come down the pike in recent decades has been an electric fencing product which has two-way current or something and doesn’t need to be grounded, which I guess is great because I don’t really understand the whole grounding thing and thus find it difficult to describe in articles.  But ‘great’, in this case, is very much a relative term.  If I have to put together one more bloody chart comparing oak board fencing to pipe corrals to high-tensile wire to synthetics, I may in fact garrote myself on the next electric fence I see, regardless of its grounding or lack thereof.

2. Thorny regulatory issues.  Especially when they’re American.  I write for a lot of American magazines, some of which, in their peculiarly Ameri-centric way, insist on ONLY American sources being quoted.  This, to me, is short-sighted as hell … seriously, if you had a chance to hear from a showjumping expert like Beat Mandli (Switzerland) or a dressage guru like Edward Gal (the Netherlands), wouldn’t that be every bit as interesting to a reader from the United States, as someone home-grown?  I don’t see how the US can continue to teach its citizens that nothing of any note happens beyond its borders, but I digress.  What really makes me crazy is trying to figure out which government agency I have to phone, when I am commissioned to write an article about some issue which concerns or involves American government agencies (ie. drug regulations, feed and supplement labels, or the slaughter industry).  The whole regulatory situation in the US, with so many things under state jurisdiction rather than national — and thus wildly different from state to state — makes me absolutely postal.

I’m nearly as unenthused about doing pieces about Canadian regulatory issues, but at least I can usually identify a ministry or organization as a likely starting place.  Fuggeddaboutit in the US of A.

3. Fly Control.  Again, this is a topic that makes the rounds at the beginning of every summer, and it is just mind-numbingly stupifying to write about.  And to read about too.  I can tell you all about the relative toxicities of various pyrethroid compounds, and discuss the efficacy of supposedly natural alternatives like apple cider vinegar and (I kid you not) Avon Skin-So-Soft, but really, I’d rather not.

4. Trailering.  By this I mean, the methods and mechanics of moving horses from one place to another over asphalt.  I have discussed health issues.  Regulatory (ugh) issues.  How to inspect your trailer for safety.  How to select the right towing vehicle.  Just run me over with a diesel dually next time instead of making me rehash it all again.

Et vous, gentle reader?  If you are the type who peruses horse magazines, which topics do you find irretrievably old and tired and would rather not see again in your lifetime?  I promise I’ll stop writing about them immediately.

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16 thoughts on “Please Don’t Ask Me to Write About …

  1. I’m with YOU! There are some topics that, unless there’s something absolutely revolutionary coming “down the pike”, should be laid to rest permanently and you have nailed them. Sure, there may be some new readers who’ve never read anything about deworming schedules (oh, and a pet peeve of mine – someone who says they are going “to worm my horse”. Huh? You want to GIVE the horse worms?????) or fence building or trailering – but they are few and far between and it does get monotonous when multiple magazines all have the identical editorial calendars. Grr. Ooops. did I rant?

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  2. Nancy Ambrosiano on said:

    I’m simply dying to know more about llamas and their stamping. . . but yes, trailering, fencing, arrrrggghhh. Until there’s something new and exciting and less than devastatingly obvious to write about, who reads those things? And is it possible write about them without falling asleep in one’s keyboard?

    I think the sorts of things that are truly useful to people are the horsekeeping mysteries/nonmysteries, such as why Horse A starts dropping weight and the owner hasn’t figured that Horse B is chasing it off its dinner, or its teeth are bad, it has tapeworms, etc. The sorts of things that neophytes get wrong or don’t notice, to the detriment of their creatures.

    The hard part is that the influx of neophyte owners is neverending, but we’ve all told the previous batches of them the how-to’s over and over. It’s a tape loop, a video kiosk, eternal reruns of the “how not to kill your horse” show. So I’d rather not read them over and over, but the newbies need them. C’est la vie.

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    • Actually the editors fiddled with the llama description for reasons unknown … they don’t so much ‘click’ as scream, in a truly blood-curdling fashion. The first time I heard it, I thought something was being butchered in the most horrific way imaginable. Stomping be damned, any coyote who doesn’t flee at that noise must be stone deaf and stupid.

      That said, I have never really managed to bond with llamas. They’re weird. Would much rather have a donkey around the place, personally, if I had to choose one of the three.

      As for the ‘how not to kill your horse’ show … well, yeah. I recognize the necessity. I just sometimes feel the editors aren’t really pulling their weight in the ‘new spin’ department.

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  3. Hallie McEvoy on said:

    Chain me down, pour honey over my naked body, and set the horseflies loose upon me if I EVER have to explain why Avon Skin So Soft doesn’t really work on your horse for fly control again. People WANT it to work so they think it works. People, people, you need chemicals to protect your horse from the flying nasty insects. I have sold the same article on insect control (written 12 years ago) every spring with nary a change.

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  4. Perhaps, a topic of fly control regulations on fences might really work as a topic. LOL I understand completely the lack of research on writers done by those promoting their clients, products, or services. Some of the requests that I receive to blog about have less than zero relationship to my blog, and I am willing to stretch it too.:-)

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  5. mandyf on said:

    I love that you write longer than me … most times… I don’t ever want to write about why it’s okay to write long ever again. My feeling is – if you happen to rock it as hard as you (and I) do, you can actually string together more than 500 words and still keep people interested. For me though, this blog was a winner as soon as I saw bitterness AND bile right away. You use turn on words like that and you’ve hooked me! Great Post!

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  6. Hah! So great. I love the infographic, learned something about llamas 🙂

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  7. Reblogged this on Daria and commented:
    I learned something about llamas, and more about electric fences than I ever need to know 🙂

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  8. Wow, yes that is quite a list of topics not to do.. 🙂 Have super day 🙂

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  9. It really gets my goat that I can’t find a +1 button on your page. If it’s there, I’m blindly missing it.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to me that some could specialize in such an area of writing. I never would have thought to make a career out of writing about such animals, but obviously someone has to do it if these articles are published all the time. That’s pretty cool, actually.

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    • Ooh, goat jokes. You’re my kinda people, Jason.

      The Google+ button is there, at the bottom of the post under “share this”. The GetSocial buttons don’t include +1 for some reason, but that one does (and look, five other people found it!).

      You wouldn’t believe all the weird niches out there. I know someone who writes about nothing but tying flies for trout-fishing. There’s a whole science in taking little bits of sparkly thread and feathers and tiny beads, and lashing them to a sharp hook in such a way that they mimic a particular species of mayfly larvae eaten by one species of fish. Go figure.

      He gets paid way better than I do, too.

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  10. 1) Those goat pictures are wrong. Absolutely double-J, Vegas-show-girl wrong.
    2) re trout fishing. Everyone gets paid better than we do. I have a friend who works in homes/historic renovation. She styles photo shoots & finds homes to write about – note not take the pic nor write the story – I won’t tell you what she gets lest you fling yourself on that ungrounded fence.
    3) Snark-o-licious.

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    • 1. I know, but you just can’t look away, can you? (I’ll have to get back to you as to whether it translates into blog traction.)
      2. If you have any decency at all, you will never tell me. I’m already too close to self-flinging.
      3. That is going on my resume.

      Like

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