Look at how students act. My mom and I agree on something, though: too many students are afraid to even try. The thought of going to the board or raising their hand is frightening. They might know the answer or think they know they answer… but that board will remain empty.
I haven’t been the most successful professional. I barely make minimum wage (sometimes less) while working one and a half jobs. Every few months is a struggle to pay the bills. I’m happy, don’t get me wrong. I have a beautiful woman by my side, friends I can count on, and a family that loves me. However, the economy being what it is, I’ve sent out more job applications and job proposals for freelance work since 2007 than I care to remember. Today, I’m going to meet with some nice folks about a grant-writing job that might help offset the holiday hole in my bank account.
I hate looking stupid. I’ve never written a grant in my life. I took a course and have done everything from novel ghostwriting and editing, teaching, corporate presentations, congressional work, and blogging. I read everything from science fiction to political blogs.
Was I scared?
I’m scared right now. Every day. My kind of work doesn’t afford a lot of security. Every hour I spend writing a proposal is an hour I don’t get paid or get to spend with Mary. Every post I write for this site is another shot at someone sharing the link and bringing more readers so I can eventually make enough money from the ads to just focus on this, my own writing, and my family. This meeting today will be a head-first dive into a type of writing job I’ve never done before and could easily lead to no money and embarrassment.
But I’m going to do it. I had teachers and professors that taught me better than to give up. I’ve had a lot of dead ends in my short career. I’ve had some good times. I’m not going to stop raising my hand and trying.
After I left DC, broke as ever, depressed, and physically and emotionally tired from everything that had happened, my old boss, Destine Holmgreene, took me into her office on my first day back and asked if I was okay. I looked only a little better than I felt.
She said, “So what are you going to do now?”
I just shrugged and said, “Start over. What else is there?”
Being an artist means starting over every day. Every project is a potential new disappointment. Every potential job is time spent away from our work and our loved ones. We don’t have the luxury to stick with a set schedule. We’re not the nine to five crowd. We’re always working, if not thinking of new things to try.
We’re also thinking of the thousand things that could go wrong. But we keep going. If this falls flat, I’ll just say the thing I’ve seen hundreds of time before.
I was hired as a screenwriter and told I would be writing scripts for documentaries and short films. It was an exciting opportunity and I would get to work with a man I quickly confirmed had the cred, the fan base, and the resources to make this come true. I would be making much better money, getting more exposure, and reaching out to other areas I’d ever researched before. It was an unexpected and seemingly miraculous turn of events.
Well, you know what they say about Greeks bearing gifts, right?
Yeah, I was technically the guy’s screenwriter, but over the next few months, we wrote ONE film together and my days (and I mean 24-hours a day) were spent doing errands for this guy, picking up his lunch, driving at odd hours to hand-deliver packages, and essentially being his transcriber. All I had to do after he told me what he wanted written was to clean up the grammar and make it sound good.
Well, that and the fact that I was the one who did research, edited pictures, made phone calls, and would eventually write the book that he and his buddies were going to use to make mad moneys… four ways. There were four of them. My cut?
This was the world I’d put myself into, and I really have myself to blame for jumping into this. At the time, however, I kept thinking that if I just stuck with it a little longer, if I found some way of actually sneaking my writing into a letter, or suggested something to do with the videos he edited, maybe I would get him to give me more leeway. Maybe I could show him. All I had to do was bring my writing down to a high school level for a bit longer…
Then Neil Gaiman intruded on the whole thing.
I had a dream that I was in some gothic looking cabin by a beach. Multiple rooms with desks, small libraries, and writers everywhere made for an even stranger scene since this dilapidated cabin was bright and cheerful on the inside.
It seemed like every room was taken by someone, and other writers sat in the halls, in the living room, anywhere they could find and plugged their laptops in or just went at it with pen and paper. And me? I couldn’t think of a thing to write. I just watched these men and women, some old, some young, and wondered what they had that I didn’t have.
Where did this creativity come from? I knew I hadn’t written much for Charcoal Streets in a while. I knew my writing wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be. I knew I was writing much more than I ever had at any point in my life, but the output didn’t match an equal jump in quality.
I wandered that house and, much like the TARDIS, it was quite larger on the inside than the outside. I went from room to room. The sun kept shining in and eventually I came across a room filled with writers at desks, on the floor, and on windowsills.
I turned around and saw a man walking down the sunlit hall. If it’d been in slow motion, it wouldn’t have been any more epic. It was Neil Gaiman. THE Neil Gaiman. Neil I-Got-More-Talent-In-My-Left-Earlobe-Than-You’ve-Got-In-Your-Whole-Brain Gaiman. He had that leather jacket he always seems to be wearing and could have easily been a rock star.
I started to say something. All I remember was “What?”
Not a question of what he was doing… It was more like I was asking “What do I do?”
“What can I do?”
“What am I doing?”
“What is this?”
He smiled and said, “If you keep this up, you’re going to hate writing forever.”
That’s when I woke up. I looked around. My fiancée was fast asleep next to me. It was a few hours before I had to be up to teach the morning class I’d taken on because my boss wasn’t paying me what he promised. It wasn’t THE moment I decided to quit, but it helped.
And I’ve been wondering about that statement: “If you keep this up, you’re going to hate writing forever.”
This will be the second job where I’ve been hired for my writing, then promptly told to “dumb it down” or otherwise hold back. In Congress, I learned how to say absolutely nothing with a full page of text. Here, I learned how to say just a little more, but make it sound really deep.
That dream has haunted me for a while. I think I was trying to tell myself that if I sacrificed my art for the sake of money, if I demeaned myself enough, I could get that shot. All I had to do was write about hunters, put down the words with Tea Partiers, and work with men more interested in mafia-like business than actual quality.
Neil was right. I would have hated writing, and myself, for it.
Frankly, it wasn’t worth it. I learned a few things, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I figured I could do this myself. I have the talent (I hope) and the dedication. Ask anyone who’s seen me work. When I set my mind to something, I get it done.
Charcoal Streets and Randomology are my babies. I’m going to make them household names one day.
This article claims that the ease with which we can change writing has killed the traditional screenwriter. Screenwriting, for those out there who have never done it, involves meticulous margins and indentations that are a real pain to do, even on a computer. However, I’m willing to say I call “CRAP” on this entire article. I think this makes it easy to change a bad idea into a good one, and computers let writers go through multiple drafts, which often leads to better writing.
And finally, I don’t know if this video is real or not. Probably not. I don’t know if these guys hacked the Fox ticker, but if they did, it was awesome! See you on Friday!
Art is one of the deepest, most personal things in the world. To create art, to make something that moves people or makes them think, is an act with few equals in this world. It’s the act of creation on a personal level.
And it’s damn hard work.
I’m a writer. That’s my art. But I also have bills to pay, and I’ve invested time and money in my craft, so if someone wishes to hire me for these skills, I’m more than willing to lend myself out. For a price. I’m not talking about money, although money is part of it. I’m talking about time and effort.
Three months ago, I met with someone who said he needed a scriptwriter for documentaries. He needed someone to edit two books and help write a novel. I would receive percentages from the sale of these items and, seeing as how he has a loyal fan base and would likely sell hundreds of thousands of copies of each, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
For the last three months, I’ve taken calls, edited emails, written sales pitches, delivered DVDs, checked mail, made sales calls, and been on call all day, every day, for whatever small job or errand needed doing. In short, I’ve been doing everything but what I joined to do.
The final indignation came two weeks ago. I was tasked with Photoshopping images of deer to look like the work of Marco Grobe. Understand that I use Paint Shop Pro 7, an eight-year-old piece of software that is eight versions out of date, and use a computer that is four years old. My boss, a professional graphic designer, uses the latest Photoshop software and has a state-of-the-art Apple computer that makes mine look like a graphing calculator.
He couldn’t figure it out in one day. I figured it out in one hour. And he still had the balls to accuse me of forgetting what I was supposed to be doing when one of the more than fifty pictures I needed to alter didn’t come out quite like he wanted. He then wanted me to learn Aperture, a program I’ve never used and requires a Mac, a computer with an operating system I haven’t used since high school.
In short, I had to start from scratch, do his work, my work, and get berated when my work didn’t quite match the $3,000 worth of professional photo-manipulation he would have otherwise had to pay for. Combine that with a monthly salary that’s, frankly, a joke for everything I do and bring to the table, and I decided on only one course of action.
I quit. Sent a letter expressing my dissatisfaction. Told my boss where and when I would return the DVDs I had to mail out, the receipts, and as well as the company phone. It was as professional a letter as I could write seeing as how I was stressed, tired, and filled with what I can only describe as soul-crushing frustration and regret.
I thought that would be that, but I did receive an email from him. He was, and I’m using his own word, “insulted” by my email. Apparently, it’s insulting to point out facts.
He has a loyal fan base. Members of the US military oversees use his documentaries when they’re homesick. I know that. It’s why I had faith our products would sell and I would make a healthy profit. I should have been honored to work for him and be a part of this, he said.
Except that it’s not an honor to be someone’s lackey. Like I said, I am a writer. If I did errands, deliveries, and all this work, received no percentage and we sold a hundred thousand copies, I get nothing from it. My effort gives others praise and payment and I’m left with a month of sleepless nights and wasted time.
McDonald’s sells millions of dollars worth of product a month. Do you think the janitor that cleans corporate headquarters wakes up and thinks, “Geez, I’m so glad I’m a part of this multinational enterprise. I sure hope my mopping the floors helps the boss rake in a few extra million”?
Hell. No. I don’t care if he’s Steven fraking Spielberg. If other people do the heavy lifting and save your professional butt, you thank them and give them their rightfully earned rewards. If a painter designs a book cover, the author doesn’t get the credit. The artist does.
I didn’t say anything in my original letter that attacked him. Whether he lied when he hired me or things simply changed, the fact remained: I wasn’t going to do what I set out to do. That was it.
If you hire a teacher and then tell them the school’s not built yet and he or she must build the building and work registrar until the students arrive, you’re going to lose the teacher.
I didn’t join his company to do office work and errands. I joined to do what I do best and make a mark. If that possibility is not there, there’s nothing for me to do. As for him being insulted, I can only imagine he thought I should have been grateful he gave me a job. It’s a tough economy and he paid what he could (even though there was apparently money in the budget for other things like an assistant we didn’t need since that was part of my new duties and new furniture for his apartment).
Really? I should have been thankful for the work he gave me because I had nowhere else to go?
Within 24 hours of quitting, I got two job offers, one of which I had to refuse, and am now teaching two classes at Texas A&M International University, will start tutoring again soon, and have the possibility of more writing classes next semester. I didn’t need his job. If his ego is so frail that the thought of him not being essential to my survival hurt him, that’s his problem. Not mine.
A lot of people hear me say I’m a writer and they have one of two general reactions.
“Wow! That sounds cool!”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about writing a book. I just don’t have the time.”
What I realize now is that I was hired because my boss just didn’t have the time. It wasn’t a matter of talent. He asked me to write what he said and change it to make it sound better. That’s not writing. That’s secretarial work and editing. Writing is hard work, and those of us who do it well take it very seriously.
If you hire a photographer for your wedding, don’t expect said photographer to help clean up or drive the guests back to the hotel when they’re sloshed.
If you hire a painter to do a portrait, don’t ask said painter to cook dinner while they’re at it.
If you hire a writer to work on scripts, don’t expect the writer to stick around on the off-chance that opportunity comes back when there are other opportunities at the door. Respect your artists. We’re professionals just like in any other job. We love what we do. It’s the kind of job that often doesn’t pay well and often has years to go before we get any sort of recognition.
It’s not that we have egos that big. It’s that we crave the satisfaction of being able to do what we love.
Respect the work. Respect the writer.
And now, for some feel-good brain morphine in the shape of links.
This was kind of corny at first, but here are some pics of smiling animals. Keep scrolling down, though. Even I had to admit they were cute. And that’s saying something.
Japan’s weird. Let’s just get that out of the way. If you think kids in America dress oddly, check out some fashions from Japan. Hey, I’m glad these kids get to express themselves like this, and some of these outfits are really cool. I’m just wondering as to their day-to-day practicality.
It’s Divine by Zero time! I’ve got some time this week before I start working in the afternoon again, so let’s get the party started with some good ol’ links. If you’re on the site between October 25 and Halloween 2010, I hope you like the site’s, uhm, costume. It’s subtle, but I couldn’t think of anything else.
Also, on a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who extended support and advice in the last month. Suffice to say, I was lied to, taken advantage of, and put into an awkward financial and professional position. But it’s over now. Expect things to not be so down from now on.
Artist Alex CF is one of my favorites in the world. He does a lot of things, but what he’s best known for as his intricate models and props. He’s covering everything from LovecraftMythos to a cabinet holding artifacts Dante brought back from hell itself. He has an incredible eye for detail, and I had the cash, I’d have a room just filled with his work.
Halloween is coming up. If you want to go as Iron Man, why not build your own arc reactor? Everyone knows the costume’s better when you make it yourself…
Are you fading in and out of news programs? There’s a reason for it. One observant Brit shows how to build a news report just like the pros use.
I still have to see Piranha 3D, but I heard good things about. Spill.com referred to it as “fish and titties,” so is it any wonder the sequel is going to be called Piranha 3DD. No, I’m not kidding. That’s about as subtle as calling any Michael Bay movie Busty Brunettes and Guns.
A high school cheerleader was suspended because, in one of the Facebook pictures, she appeared to be holding a beer. Even though she and her mother deny the young woman was drinking the beer, the school still went after her. Fair? Not fair?
An old college professor of mine shared this on Facebook. If you ever get the chance to study speculative fiction, you’ll learn to see what most people call “sci-fi” in a whole new light, and you’ll be exposed to ideas about sociology, psychology, and technology you never thought possible. Of course… you run the risk of running into professors that sound like this:
Got a college degree? Guess what? You’re qualified to mop floors. Got a doctorate? Still qualified to mop floors! It seems that people with advanced degrees, millions of them, are doing jobs one would never expect. It’s still a tough economy, my friends. Take the jobs you can.
And finally, Christine O’Donnell may not be a witch, but here’s someone who certainly has her foot in the house of darkness. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a true American icon back just in time for Halloween. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, take it away.