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Writing for the Collective Good

‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley’

Poet Robert Burns’ famous quote basically means that even the best laid plans can head south, go awry, fall to pieces.

Recently I’ve been reminded of this sage advice.

While (almost) nothing goes on my schedule that I don’t agree to, I do not completely control my workload any more than the next person. I am fully aware that time is limited and that I can’t do everything.

I’m not afraid to say no. For the time I do control, it’s up to me to prioritize and decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t.

Lately I’ve had a lot going on, and it was starting to affect my writing time. There were things I wanted to be doing, but then I’d get waylaid by agreeing to do this or that. Sometimes these new efforts were time-sensitive and so had to go to the head of the line.

That is why a couple months back I seriously began thinking twice when asked to join in, become involved, participate or do something. I’d come to realize that I need to keep back a certain amount of time for me. Otherwise, those projects I value most won’t get done.

So much for plans.

Something came along that I couldn’t pass up. An ongoing project so exciting that I definitely wanted in.

Something that spoke to me on many levels: as a writer, expat, neighbor, member of the community, inhabitant of a busy city full of cultural delights.

What, might you ask, has turned my head and broken down my brilliant defenses?

In a word, The Underground.

Okay, that’s actually two words. But the thought of being in on the ground floor of helping to build an English-language monthly newspaper for the international community surrounding The Hague was just too much to pass up.

A few months ago my mentor, publisher and serial expat entrepreneur Jo Parfitt approached several of us about helping out with just such an endeavor. Jo had met with Simone Branson Harper, the publisher and creative graphic artist whose brainchild this newspaper was, and had signed on as an advisor and consultant.

I wrote about the early stages of meetings and planning in Group Trumps Solo, but didn’t want to share the nature of the project until the actual launch date. Little did I realize at the time that the launch of the Turning Points book would end up taking place on the same day as the release of The Underground’s inaugural edition!

Cork and Champagne Bursting Out of Champagne Bottle www.adventuresinexpatland.com

So while it’s been two and a half weeks since the paper’s launch, I wanted to let the dust settle and write about it when I could give it the time and attention it rightfully deserves.

Simone had a clear vision of what she did (and didn’t) want, ideas as to the feel and look and vibe of this new paper. But she needed help in the form of writers, content and editorial structure and oversight.

I committed to helping out on the first two. Much more importantly, the talented, creative and dedicated Wordgeyser and Expatcalidocious joined together to form a formidable editorial team that has been instrumental in bringing Simone’s vision to reality.

They have been doing some very, very heavy lifting over the past few months to help make The Underground’s debut a roaring success.

The idea of writing for a new and local venue has proven predictably intoxicating. Lots of people have jumped at the chance to participate, offering to write this or that.

That is how it should be, because for The Underground to be successful it must have an interesting array of voices and perspectives. Just like the city and surrounding area it represents.

However, there is often a huge gap between the semi-romantic notions of what some wanted to do and the reality of what was and continues to be needed. What seems to one person an absolutely scintillating topic may fall flat to others.

A piece someone finds topical and trendy may come across as a thinly veiled ‘advertorial’ about their business: neither interesting nor in line with the vision of the paper.

In a business where layout is critical, pesky little things like format and word count do matter. Deadlines are paramount.

But as a result of the countless hours involved and the editorial planning sessions with the publisher, The Underground launched on time and in fine form.

The December issue will go to press in a few days, and early work has begun on the January edition.

I am proud of The Underground for several reasons.

First, I am thrilled that Simone’s vision is coming to fruition: The Hague now has a monthly newspaper for the international community that celebrates its strengths and offers interesting insights, articles and tidbits.

I am excited to be part of this effort, yet also proud that I didn’t overcommit. Instead, I figured out what I could do to participate that is beneficial for all involved. I am committed to writing the monthly interview column entitled ‘Neighbours,’ and will contribute an occasional feature article.

Most of all, I am so proud of The Underground’s co-editors. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help make this paper a reality, one well worth reading.

Their talents, skills and willingness to roll up their sleeves and do the nitty gritty tough work necessary to make it a success have paid off handsomely. They have laid the difficult writing groundwork which will allow for the streamlining of a complicated content process into a much more manageable venture in the months to come.

They’ve developed a stable of writers committed to making the paper the best it can be, and are working with many others to bring them on board. They are actively searching out new talent to contribute fresh ideas and and different views.

I’m proud The Underground is now on the scene. The Hague is better for its existence, and the best is yet to come.

[Image credit: digitalart, portfolio 2280 FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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