Thursday, March 21, 2013

Career Modeling

I know there's nothing more tedious than a wannabe writer writing about writing instead of actually writing something interesting, but hey, it's my blog, and writing is what I've been thinking about today. Specifically, how difficult it is or would be to make a career out of it, especially the way things are going in the industry.  Everyone* seems to think the old method is dying.  Or, at the very least, people seem to be worried that the old methods are dying.  To be sure, every industry story I've read about working in the traditional print magazine or newspaper industry seems unpromising.  Most publications seemed trapped in a downward spiral of layoffs, increasing workload to cover for the layoffs and less pay.  Freelancers are more and more expected to write for free, with "exposure" as the only payment.  And online writing, as far as I can tell, seems contingent solely on generating clicks, which is why it has quickly and sadly devolved into endless gossip, pointless trivia and the dreaded listcicle articles, because apparently what people love is x number of adjective facts about y.  I don't see a lot of quality writing online, and I don't see a lot of interest in it.  Although, I could just be looking in the wrong places and/or underestimating people.  Well, I'm almost certain I'm underestimating people.  Which is how I'll feel right up until I see headlines promising 9 surprising and useless facts about popcorn anyway.

As far as writing fiction goes, it seems possible to make a living selling stories, either as books or screenplays, but less and less chance to be a megastar, as the book industry seems to be undergoing the same contraction that magazines and newspapers are.  But here, as in music, the model of "make a book or album and charge for the pleasure of trying it" seems to be dying as well.  Not only is piracy an ongoing concern for writers, people seem less and less inclined to buy a story or album when they can't try it out first.  Or they're into the kickstarter model where people fund your project if they like you, the sample product or the ideas.  This is not terrible, of course, I don't bemoan it.  It's great for the consumer both in cost and as incentive for creators to make better products.  But it seems to me that, for the time being at least, the model seems to be shifting more to a structure where creators put their work out in samples or for free and let people buy just the pieces of it they like, or the whole work for cheap.  Or even putting the whole album or book out there for free, and letting people pay you if they think it's any good.  I actually think this new model works out better in a lot of ways, in that what gets made is influenced more by the consumers and less by wealthy industry types trying to tell you what you like or attempting to mind-read your preferences from a distance.  What I am not sure about, is where this leaves writing/creating in terms of a career.  Is it possible to write/create full-time now, or is it something only those truly passionate about it will do on nights and weekends, as they can when they can get away from the day job that pays the bills?  I don't know, but I feel like it's something I should have a handle on before I make any hasty decisions.

My guess right now is that it's better to just generate some good work for free, keep an active blog, and hope that I get lucky or produce writing good enough (down the road, if not right away), that people would want to put some money in the tip jar.  Or at least build a big enough audience to pick up the notice of a bigger publisher.  Most of the nuts and bolts commentary I read by artists I respect basically suggest this method.  Knuckle down, do the work, put it where people can see it, connect with other people who write about the dame thing, write about it on your public platform and hope other people resonate with it enough to pay you money for it.  Oh, and don't quit your day job until your other work starts making enough money to replace it.  So I think that's what I'm going to go for, at this point anyway.  Although it seems vital that I do so under a better pseudonym or simply my real name.  Using my real name is potentially problematic because my existing career has nothing to do with creative writing, and I'd rather not accidentally destroy it by telegraphing the possibility that I might be more interested in doing the work I'm not paid to do.  But still, it might be necessary.  I'm obviously terrible at pseudonyms.  In any case, real life friends should look out for twitter and blog accounts cropping up soon under my real life name.  I'm not sure exactly what, if anything, I'm going to do with them yet, but it would be nice to have them up as placeholders.

But, first things first:  knuckle down and do the work.  Assuming I can get past my last mental block and allow myself the pleasure of writing and the possibility of failure (both of the stupid neuroses I've struggled with most of my life), I intend to do just that and star putting more review pieces and fiction out.  And if my piano playing ends up getting better, maybe I'll throw some of that up too.  I hope people like my work.  If not, I intend to get better.  Will it ever become a career?  I guess I won't know until I try.  And if I have things to say, which I do, then I might as well say them.  In the meantime, at the very least, it seems like the hobby I want to cultivate and that seems good enough.  Hell, at least some of what I write will have to be better than "10 Alarming Reasons to Buy a Horse."

*Okay, the limited selection of authors I've read the the internet.

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