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May 17, 2006



Sigh. I don't particularly think of myself as an "MSM type" -- whatever that is. (I quote my personal favorite blogger, Jon Swift, on this usage: "MSM...is what we bloggers like to call the mainstream media because it is easier than writing out the words m-a-i-n-s-t-r-e-a-m m-e-d-i-a and the time we save by not writing out the words "mainstream media" can be spent doing more research to back up what we say." http://jonswift.blogspot.com/2006/04/jill-carroll-vs-blogosphere.html.) I've written in all kinds of contexts, including online. And I've been blogging all week.

There is also a difference between making a "killing" and making a living, though that Tyler Green would conflate those ideas is itself revealing. I do appreciate Terry Teachout's patience (which I seem to be exahausting) with my posts; he's taken a pretty balanced, reasonable position. But the world of blogging is democratic sort of in the same way that the rest of our society is. As long as you don't expect to be paid for it, you can pretty much do anything you want. And as I said in my first post (two days and what feels like five million years ago) the relationship of talent to posturing seems to me to be about the same in blogs as in -- oh, OK, I'll say it -- the mainstream media, except that there's a lot more of it.

As for newspaper and magazine editors combing blogs to find new (and, needless to say, often younger, cheaper) writers, fair enough -- good writing can turn up anywhere and everyone deserves a shot. It's also symptomatic of a failure of confidence. They hope the Internet and its presumed demographic will save them, too.

And, who knows, maybe it will. I don't have a remedy, as Maud Newton, points out. But, then, I never claimed to.

Posted by at May 17, 2006 10:44 AM


Anthony has twice suggested that the basic question is "How can a freelance arts critic -- any independent contractor in a society that formerly celebrated rugged individualism -- make a living (not a killing)?" I agree. Here are some practices I've used, if only as ideals, not doing all I say, just thinking about a lot of it. They amount to "nourish creative energy" and "develop commercial organizational sense" to generate "product" and maximize "sales."

Write a lot. Write what you want to write, what you can get assignments for, what nobody wants you to write. Write blogs, broadsides, epics, hiaku, automatic notes, thoughts on thinking, polished articles for $2 a word plus travel expenses and a promo tour. It may not all sell for quite that much now, but it may all be publishable someday, somehow. Anyway, you did the writing and learned about writing by doing so. Save everything. Backup frequently. Remember, writing is fun!

Brand your writing. Make it clear it's yours, nobody else writes like you do, and people want to READ THIS!!!

Let people know what you're writing. Take writing seriously. Ask for serious recompense from those who use your writing (publishers).

Negotiate fairly, quietly and seriously. Build on what you accomplish in negotiations. Accept perks -- visibility, freedom of expression, regular work at lower pay -- but don't feed vanity before paying the rent.

KEEP CONTROL OF YOUR RIGHTS. Register copyrights and enforce them as best you can. This is a fulltime job in itself, but an essential one. Otherwise you have nothing to sell; you've sold your self for a quick fix. Don't be dumb, read your contracts, or marry a lawyer.

Be ambitious and willing to invest (financially, timewise) in work, but be practical, don't overspend yrself.

Sell one article multiple times, in different markets (local weeklies with regional readership seem likely candidates), in different languages if possible. I used to think of local, national, and international outlets.Or print and radio pieces on the same topic ((learn to work in multiple media -- write, edit, teach, broadcast, web if you wanna). Adaption is usually quicker than working from scratch, and teaches streamlining, concision.

Keep at it. Don't despair. A lot of us are trying to do the same thing, and that can be very good (as well as damn annoying). I personally enjoy working with other people (as long as they stay out of my writing!), thinking we can make more happen together than each individually. Not everyone feels that way, ok. But at least consider how you are not alone, and might do better by joining in some way, in person or online, just griping or presenting a campaign to change something changable, with others sharing similar concerns, like how to get publishers to take arts journalism seriously, or maybe how to get good work out to good readers who will gain from it and demand more.

An impossible job, who volunteered for it?

Posted by: Howard Mandel at May 18, 2006 6:22 AM

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