By now, many of you may have read or heard about this recent NYT article
about the dearth of women on the op-ed pages of major newspapers:
Whatever other reasons may explain the lack of women’s voices on the nation’s op-ed pages, the lack of women asking to be there is clearly part of the problem. Many opinion page editors at major newspapers across the country say that 65 or 75 percent of unsolicited manuscripts, or more, come from men.
The article describes the "altruisim" of Catherine Orenstein, an author and activist, who gallantly contributes her time to teach women how to write and submit op-eds to major newspapers--sometimes to the tune of $5000 per group to attend a few lousy seminars. Ms. Orenstein lets the women in the seminars know that they are too likely to write to influence public policy, change the world or offer a new perspective, when instead, they should be thinking of fame, fortune and a TV series coming out of their writing. Okay, Orenstein should know, given that she is charging a small fortune to learn how to write an op-ed.
What I find troubling is the lack of initiative that these women display. Why not take matters into their own hands, research how to do a task on their own without a "guru" to tell them they are okay and that their words matter? For goodness sakes, it's an op-ed, not rocket science. Talking is good sometimes, but so is action. Why waste valuable time at a seminar getting your courage up when for free, you can go to the local library, get a book on how to write a persuasive argument and read it in your spare time--all in the same amount of time it would take you to get to a seminar that may cost a bundle? For example, when I was writing my book, I used Write the Perfect Book Proposal
by agent Jeff Herman (who took me on as a client) as an outline and it was terrific. From this book, I used his techniques to write op-eds, submitted them and got a number
of them published. The cost? $10.85 for the book and a few hours of my time to write each article.
And speaking of economics, if a group is paying $5000 for a seminar, how many op-eds would the group have to write to make their time worthwile? A lot. Op-eds sometimes pay nothing or $150.00 to $450.00 per piece--even for the New York Times
. I once made $350.00 for a solicited article from the Los Angeles Times
and thought I'd hit paydirt. So, moral of the story, don't waste your time paying someone to get you off your butt, massage your ego and teach you something you could learn with a little self-discipline and motivation.
Because in terms of economics and perhaps even success, most people are better off doing their own research -- heck, use the internet
-- patting themselves on the back and getting the fax numbers of the major newspapers around the country (an easy task) and blasting out their op-ed to ten papers at a time until somebody bites. Talking all of the time about how to get things done often defeats the purpose of...getting things done!