So, I may have accidentally disappeared from this site a little last week. It wasn’t intentional, I promise; I just found myself entirely snowed under with work as I started writing for the Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog and realized worryingly quickly that I had underestimated just how much additional work that would actually be in reality (I gave up two other gigs in order to free up enough time, but the workload didn’t translate as I’d initially thought). That it was also a holiday weekend – Huzzah for July 4, which came at the right time to stop me feeling completely overloaded – both helped and didn’t help everything, as it frontloaded things onto the start of a week that was already busy but also gave me some breathing room that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Anyway, I’m sorry for disappearing without notice, and will try not to do it again in future. Well, except for next week, which is Comic-Con which I’m working for Wired.com, and therefore will be crazy and quiet and AIEEEEEE.
(That I am now writing for Wired, Time and the Hollywood Reporter, by the way, is both surreal and slightly scary to me. This has to be the peak, right? It’s all downhill from here on, as I flame out in spectacular fashion.)
Man, I’m not sure today could have gone stranger if someone had tried to make it that way. Without going too much into work-related detail, it was one of those days when things didn’t go anywhere close to plan, with delays on some things, complete rethinks on other things, and an unexpected waste of a morning in terms of working on something that ended up being unnecessary. Such things happen, of course, but them all happening on the same day ends up giving a particularly depressive, apathetic feel to that day, a sense of What am I doing? and Clearly, I made some wrong choices along the way.
Amusingly/not-really-amusingly, said frustrations happened on the same day that Kate was having a similarly rough day. We had lunch together, and pretty much just moaned at each other about the kinds of days when work gets you down so much that you want to walk away and come back when it’s better, but deadlines refuse to let you. Sometimes, being a freelancer is rough, and it’s normally down to this kind of thing; the feeling of being a particularly unimportant cog in a machine that you can’t quite see, or even understand the shape of.
But this is, for me, also about the adjustment away from the weekly and daily deadlines I’ve been on for the last twenty years. Now I actually have a little bit of time to do something other than write scripts. Not that’s made me a better blogger, oddly enough — I was more productive on warrenellis.com when I was writing eight things at once than I am now. Funny how that’s worked out. Presumbly a result of a mind being overclocked in pursuit of getting all the words out now now now now.
That’s Warren Ellis, from his latest MACHINE VISION (It’s all in caps, apparently) email newsletter, quoted because… Well, because it’s a Friday afternoon and it’s been a long week (I didn’t have the holiday Monday that regular folk did; freelancer, you see), and because I am all too familiar with the mindset of getting all the words out now now now now. It’s something I’ve been struggling with, recently, the problem of (a) meeting deadlines, (b) writing a lot of stuff without it all becoming mush – I’ve really had problems with that this week, and feel like I screwed up at least a couple of times – and most importantly for me, (c) stopping afterwards. What I’ve found myself doing is being trapped in this loop of just feeling constant… anxiety isn’t the right word, but as if my brain is a train that refuses to stop, even though I want to get off. It takes too long to calm down, which is a problem.
Weirdly enough, I’ve discovered that Star Trek novels work; they do something that somebody smart enough to know these things once told me: They give your brain enough to distract it, but not enough to actually tax it, so you get to decelerate and, if you’re lucky, stop every now and again.
Plus, now I can tell you all about the Thallonian Empire and what happened to the crew of Deep Space 9 after the series finished, which is something.
I’m in a period of work where I feel like I’m continually beginning new gigs and taking nervous first steps with new clients or outlets, which is… continually nervewracking? I was having a conversation the other day about the fact that I’m not even finding the time to enjoy the fact of my new outlets (and one of them in particular is very sweet, considering), because I’m too busy feeling nervous about whether or not what I’m doing is going to be liked by the people footing the bills and the wider audience beyond that. It’s the opposite of familiarity breeding contempt; the lack of familiarity breeding anxiety, over and over again.
(This update brought to you by getting really good notes on a story for a new outlet that I think is going live tomorrow, and the resultant relief quickly followed by “Okay, so how do I actually make those changes?” and “Is ‘that was a fun read’ code for ‘It sucks’?”)
As someone who writes online for a living, the news that Google is now larger (financially) than the entire US newspaper industry (advertising and sales) is depressing in a way that’s hard to explain. I love the internet and I love what I do, don’t get me wrong, but I have always secretly wanted to have things in print. It’s an old-fashioned thing, perhaps, or a subconscious rejection of the transience of online writing, but I saw Abraham Reisman say this in a Warren Ellis blog post and it rang true:
Writing a cover feature for a magazine remains one of the — if not the — brass rings for a freelancer or young staff writer. Like, for real.
The blue-chip publications are, of course, ideal — your New Yorkers and New York Times Magazines and Wireds. And I don’t suppose anyone has little fantasies about writing for the official Amtrak magazine (although, y’know what, I really shouldn’t say such things in this economy). But even a spot in a smaller-market title is an insane boon to one’s career/prestige/wallet, when one is starting out.
I dream of the day that I can write a cover story — or even just an internal feature. I want to go glossy. I’d literally do it for zero money, because it brings with it a hope that dollar-signs will be in my corneas in the not-so-distant future.
There’s something about writing for print that feels more… successful? established? both? that writing for the internet, and I say that as someone who’s written for Time Magazine and Gawker Media online, two big, somewhat prestigious media empires. In time, that sense of self-success will shift for writers, I’m sure, but for now… print is still where it’s at, despite the size of Google and the weight of reality. And because of that, I think the “death of print” is still a little bit off… or, at least, I hope it is.