I was running through the neighborhood and I heard this contractor explaining what he wanted done to one of his day-laborers or employees or whatever.
“No, you need to turn it, so when the water comes out, the agua. It needs to face the other way.”
And he just kept saying over and over “it needs to be turned,” “the agua.”
I’m really not sure water was the word that needed translating in that sentence.
Today the obgyn (who also was on the receiving end of a good part of my stock speech on how forcing me to attend a relatively patronizing annual medical exam, designed almost solely to keep the future mothers of America breeding well, simply so I can obtain a renewal of a medication that really ought to be over-the-counter is absurd and poor policy) earned my disdain when she explained that the reason she had to ask me multiple times if I smoke — really, I don’t, really — was because it was going in a government file.
Me: Yeah, but the government doesn’t actually have a medical file on me somewhere?
Her: They come and audit us and we have to have four things checked… one of which is whether or not I smoke, apparently.
Me: But, it’s just an audit of you; there’s not like an actual file on me in some federal medical warehouse?
Her: Yes, in the future, they’ll sort out the healthy people and the smokers and the sick.
Um. If that is true then I have the story I really should be writing.
This week there was a furor on the internet about paying writers and freelancers - prompted by the Atlantic asking someone to publish something for free. (Which isn’t nearly as bad as it originally sounds, since really they could have just written a couple paragraphs and linked and that would have been free and no one would have thought anything of it.)
And, then, everyone got all worked into a froth about the state of online journalism and what it’s like to be on the other end, with the money, and how much are writers worth anyway. And, what about the industry, the DYING INDUSTRY!!
All the hand-wringing just started to seem awfully pretentious and self-involved. Not that it wasn’t fascinating for me. But, it presupposes that journalism is worth the hand-wringing, that it’s somehow a greater calling than simply a job, that this was a discussion that the internets needed to be having because it mattered for the future sake of free society, and other grandiose issues.
Because, the fact, is it’s not like journalism is the only place people ask you to work for free. It’s not like it’s the only profession where you perhaps have to work for free or very little in order to move your way up through the ranks. It’s not like there isn’t a cost-benefit calculation to be done in every job.
Here is a story, I was told once about a friend’s friend’s relative:
There is a stretch of road near my house, behind the car dealerships and warehouses, where day-laborers line up for work. They come from all over and stand on the side of the road hoping to be picked up for a gardening job or a construction gig or just anything that’ll pay the bills that day. Some days, there’s hundreds of men (it’s nearly always only men) gathered in small groups along the road. Most of them, though not all, are undocumented immigrants, because why else would you stand on the side of the road hoping for money unless you had few other options.
So, the story goes that some friend of a friend’s uncle or dad or whoever picked up a half-dozen of these guys to come over and do some gardening. They worked all day. It was extensive landscaping. And, at the end of the day, the guy bought them all some pizza and dropped them back off. That was their pay. And, what were they going to do? Go to the police?
That’s not a good comparison to the journalists not getting paid debate, you say? It’s not the same. You’re right. It’s not the same.
Here’s a more apt comparison, perhaps:
My understanding, and people with tattoo artist experience can correct me if this is slightly off-base, is that tattoo artists often have to work their way up through the ranks as low-paid or unpaid apprentices, then journeyman-style tattoo-ists, until eventually becoming full tattoo artists. Old school. I’ve even heard of people paying for the privilege of being an apprentice. Where’s the outrage?
My point here is that sure, the people with the money are always going to try to get as much work as possible out of those without the money. There’s nothing inherently wrong with asking someone to work for free — as long as you have the luxury of saying no.
And, journalists, you do.
This job is just a job. A cool job - though not always - and better than others. Certainly, a job that requires you to be true to more people than just a boss. But, don’t let them convince you that it’s a privilege for which you should pay.
Look, you can make a living as a freelance writer. You can. I feel like that simply needs to be said. I made about $57,000 in 2012. (Stop being squeamish about revealing salaries. It’s just a number. You don’t really believe it’s reflective of your value as a person, do you?) And, since I quit my full-time job at Patch in March, that income has solely been made from my writing, reporting, and designing skills — though less my designing skills.
But, no, I didn’t write many high-profile pieces. I didn’t build a name for myself at prestigious publications. I couldn’t afford to, because in the calculation of if it’s worth it for me I have to pick the places that can pay (and also the ones I enjoy). This is perhaps short-sighted of me and I should undoubtedly make more of an effort to gain a foothold establishing myself, but once I finish writing all the things for money I never quite have the energy or time to write the things for prestige and fame.
Take a look at Who Pays Writers or at this discussion, it’s very clear that the higher-profile, more prestigious places pay shit. The Atlantic paying $100 for an online article is not abnormal. Because they can. Because, the worth they offer comes in something other than money.
I don’t believe that worth has to come in the form of money. I do understand that there are a whole host of reasons you might write something for free. I can’t really afford all those reasons, but I get that they exist.
But, of course, that limits who can enter the arena. In the same way that requiring internships and clips accumulated from hours of work, while presumably someone else foots your bills, cuts down on who is going to make it. I had to quit an internship in college because the cost of taking the train into the city three times a week was making me nauseous with worry about my bank account. Every trip, I’d try to calculate if I could make it up in more hours at my actual job or if I’d simply not eat. Did quitting end up costing me more than the train rides in the long run, because it would have opened doors otherwise unavailable? Possibly. Probably. But, what could I do. The question of it was worth it was the only one I could answer at the time.
There is no amount that freelancers should be paid, nothing they are owed other than what we owe each other simply as people — which is presumably more than a pizza for a day of labor. But, there is a very straight-forward calculation each of us makes in all our jobs all the time. Is it worth it to me? And, for any of us, that either has to come in money, enjoyment — or, most probably, both.
RIP Floyd. (Reposted)
I’m trying to write an article about the effects of sleep on athletic performance, but I’m too tired to think straight or concentrate.
I am ready for a big writing project. I made more money than ever last year, and I did it freelancing, so I feel ready to tackle that ambition that’s always hanging out there. I want to write a book and a movie and short stories and TV shows and essays and long magazine features. I’m ready for a big project — I’ve even started a few.
But, what exactly that project is going to be is unclear to me right now.
A friend asked me to work with him on a script about John Brown, which is fascinating, not because I’m particularly helpful, but because he’s a script reader and knows stuff about structure and formatting — stuff I never consciously think about — and it’s a cool topic.
I have a pretty fleshed out idea for a non-fiction book that I really ought to put a proposal together for. It’s about sports and money and stuff and I know it would be good and I know I could do it well and I think I could get a publisher too.
I also finally wrote the first chapter of the novel I’ve been thinking about, but I’m already not sure I like it. Not because it’s bad, more because I don’t know if I want to write a book where any character is a runner.
Because, here’s the thing: Do you write about characters that sound and look like you? Do you write ‘what you know?’ Or, do you write something totally different?
And, don’t tell me to “do what I’d do if no one was watching” or “if money isn’t an issue” or “what I love.” That shit is idiotic because it’s 1. inane - as if you actually think I’m going to say, “oh my god, I hadn’t thought about doing what I love, you just opened my eyes and set me free,” 2. fucking amateur hour - like using the word “passion” to describe how you feel about travel, when in fact no one feels strongly about the act of sitting in cars and trains and planes - which cheapens the entire discussion and 3. beside the point - if I wanted to write in a diary, I would just blog.
I am not interested in this new age pop psychology middle American bullshit. I am no more interesting in writing something no one wants to read than I am in walking an Ironman just to finish. It’s not that it couldn’t happen somewhere in the middle, but I’d like to start out with a slightly more optimistic goal. I’d like to know where what I want to do, what I’m good at, and what people will pay me for intersect.
But, I don’t know and no one will tell me. No one will say oh, yeah, you suck at that.
Here are my observations: I’m good at writing very quickly. If I think too much, I overthink and get bogged down in the whole thing. I love science fiction, but it’s challenging to do something different and new and well-thought-out. Writing about sports is hard, because it’s too easy to fall into cliches, even if you really know what you’re talking about and really want to write about sports. Writing about being 20-something is hard, because too many people think they know what that’s like, even if you are 20-something and they’re wrong.
So, I want to write a book about 20-somethings dealing with all that life shit and trying to make it in sports and struggling, but that just doesn’t seem like my strong suit. I don’t think it comes together — too much pathos, not enough humor. Which means I pretty much should write sci-fi short stories? Or a young adult fantasy novel?
(Source: tastefullyoffensive, via generic1)
Earlier this year, I converted my long-time blog (which was primarily about triathlon) to a professional-type site to showcase my work and me and all that crap that people want to see when they hire you. Though, since I haven’t gotten a super awesome amazing job in that time, maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
At the time, I was also sort of, semi-quitting triathlon, so it seemed like a good opportunity to leave the whole triathlon/sports blog thing behind. Instead, I started this Tumblr and was well on my way to being part of the internet hipster elite.
But, the Tumblr never really worked right. [I couldn’t get the comments to show up always.] And, it turns out what people mostly like reading about is me and sports and triathlon and all that stuff I actually know a lot about and have experience in. Also, it turns out that’s mostly what I like writing about.
Then, last week I interviewed a bunch of uber-popular running bloggers for an article. They were all very, very nice people and had lots of very nice stuff to say about running and their stories and inspiring other runners with their stories. But, I felt like they largely didn’t represent my experience or story. In fact, a lot of the athletic internet doesn’t represent my experience, because a lot of it is slightly, well, too cheerful. In my experience, sports aren’t always cheerful.
Maybe I’m totally wrong about this. Maybe I’m really the only person in the whole world who starts out looking up something online and ends up completely side-tracked jealous Google stalking random people whose lives I wish I had and trying to figure out how they got there. Maybe. But, I don’t think I am. I mean Google-ing is a verb for a reason.
So, I thought I’d start my own sports blog again. Here it is: It’s Always Sunny Running.
And, I hope to do more stuff with it, have other people write, post resources, get people’s opinions. We’ll see. I hope I’m not totally wrong.