Thursday, January 24, 2008

A short-ish note...

...to explain something in the last post.

Those who commented, bless 'em all, had eminently sensible suggestions to make about how I should, as Gen. Jack D Ripper so famously said in the movie Dr Strangelove, "withhold my essence" from those who treat me with less than the respect I have earned.

Each of them was, of course, 100% right. If what I'm doing resembled a normal business, that is.

In my business, circa AD 2008, their ideas would get you tossed aside like a used Kleenex.

Let's go back, for a moment, to 1986. Which I wish I could do for many reasons, not the least of which is that I hadn't met a few female persons who were to have rather destructive effects on me. But we're talking about work here.

After I had completed my very first articles -- for two major publications, I might add -- work was offered almost faster than I could deal with it. I was good, and that meant work. When checks didn't arrive, a phone call mentioning this unfortunate fact was usually enough to get same in my mailbox within a couple of days. With apologies.

And then the rot began to set in. I don't know exactly when, but it did.

Today, any form of complaint is more than likely to bring a reply mentioning that Hack Writer X doesn't bitch about payment -- why should he? He has a well-off wife/girlfriend/mother -- and even if his stuff is crap, it fits the same pages as my good work does.

Those of you who have noticed and bemoaned the appalling decline in English-language skill in other publications, online and otherwise, will understand part of this.

At some point, the "big" magazines began to realize that the nickel-and-dime operations were making nice profits, and decided they need not pay their writers any more than the word-chewers get from those cheesy books.

We writers and photographers are the people who fill the spaces between ads. And since readers are gradually losing the ability to tell quality research, writing and/or photographic talent from uneducated drivel, that's the way it seems destined to remain.

Any freelance "content provider" -- to use a phrase I loathe -- knows what I'm talking about.

My first big failing was not seeing what was going on soon enough. As in soon enough to get a gig at WallyMart. My second big failing was thinking that quality would always mean something. As soon as some enterprising sort in Mumbai opens a "Writing Center" to deliver doggerel to magazines at a drastically reduced rate, I'm totally doomed.

If you could talk to a dinosaur, you'd find him as puzzled as I am. It's the old "I used to have plenty of vegetation to nibble on, and now I have this damn tar underfoot, and it's making it difficult to walk" routine.

But the worst aspect is that when the nasty side of the biz began to make itself apparent, I had some fine, fine lovin' going on, and it was easy to turn my back on reality when naughty/nice escapades beckoned. That made me more determined to keep the whole dreary act afloat, too.

It's worse when what you're losing is all you have, Jim.

Okay, so this wasn't exactly what you'd call brief. So sue me.

And it still doesn't explain the whole thing, does it?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

It does to some degree.

DAL said...

I understand what you are saying. Publishers are weasels.

What I don't understand is why you don't find at least something, anything to fill the gaps so you can buy a sandwich and a beer now and then.

Wally World greeters are all ages, but I don't think you would enjoy standing for hours at a time.

MrScribbler said...

dal -- I don't think those blue vests would work for me, either....

Anonymous said...

Maybe finding something to fill in the gaps wouldn't be a bad idea. Although I surely wouldn't suggest Wal-hell. You deserve so much more, Scribbs. You really do.

Gill

emd said...

It's a scary damn thing, Scribbs. I feel you.

lowandslow said...

Comprende. And the sad part is I probably buy many of those weasel rags you refer to. And any complaint you send to the publishers usually winds up on the "letters" page, with the writer the butt of their smirky attitude.

S

12b12 said...

Hang in there. There is some truth in the adage that it is always darkest before the dawn. People have forgotten what legal, and moral, obligations are it seems. Maybe there is a special hell reserved for those who don't pay what they owe. I hope they get their conscience back before it is too late. As for quality, there will always be a need for it in the publishing biz. There are still a few educated people left who read their rags, and can recognize quality when they see it.

evilpoptart said...

I refuse "weasle rags" myself. Dirty filth makes me dumber for having looked at it. I'm sorry you're having a sucky time. If i could fix it I would, trust me, I'm ready for a change too.

Andy

Anonymous said...

What is victim mentality?

A victim mentality is one where you blame everyone else for what happens in your world. (Another definition not as commonly used is one that says a person thinks the future only holds bad things for them.) If you do not get the promotion it is because Mr. Johnson was out to get you. Not because he found you playing on the Internet every day. Your best friend called and said she could not have dinner with you. She is always doing that to you; not showing. You'll show her. You won't invite her when you go out again! Instead of remembering she has just started school and you did call her at the last minute. Victim mentality.

LISTEN TO YOURSELF!!!!!! Are you blaming others in your life for all the distress in it? Are you not accepting responsibility for your actions? Are you giving some other person the power (by blaming them you are giving them the power) to have control once again in your life? Do you look at life as being unfair to you and that everyone else gets the breaks?

YES, YES, YES. For FUCK SAKE Scribbler, get some help. Go see a shrink or a doctor. Get off the fucking pity pot and take action.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I may not be the sweetest person on JS [ask Smotlock] but that is a bit harsh even by my standards.

And it t'warn't me.

AmberO

MrScribbler said...

AO -- Knew it wasn't you....

I consider "anonymous's" remarks a bit harsh as well, but hey, I can only see what I see, and can only judge myself by what I do and what happens around/to me.

Anonymous said...

Concur that the comment was a jaw dropper and your reaction is very measured.

And yet others of your good friends and supporters here have been saying essentially the same thing, albeit in much more muted terms, for over a year now.

I think many here may see your situation as somewhat analagous to driving a very expensive sportscar with the handbrake on.

Respectfully

Fin

MrScribbler said...

Fin -- For all that, none of my friends and supporters are in my business or know the people who affect me (except in one case, and they "know" her in a superficial way) or even know me very well, though I do my best to be pretty honest.

Moreover, it must be said that some of my own worst traits also contribute in great measure to my skill at work and my value as a friend/companion.

Like almost everyone else, I reject most "simple" answers, and try damn hard not to offer them to anyone else for use in their lives.

So I evaluate what everyone says, and try to incorporate what I can see works -- or even might work -- in my situation. But the "you should" type of response generally turns me right off.

John said...

I think the comment was more philosophy than specific solution. I did not read the hostility some may have.
The situation described is one in which people are not paid for their work, and if they complain then they don't get work.
It sounds like an unsustainable lifestyle. That implies that some kind of shift may be needed.
It doesn't work that way in all transactions but people try to play that same game in everything, when they can.
Lots of people who like what they are doing, or simply have a strong sense of quality and work ethic, get taken advantage of all the time.

Changing any part of any pattern takes adjusting all the parts. I'm not saying I can do it, but in the past I have. One thing that never failed though was that others resisted any change in the interaction, whether on a business or personal level. Internally, I resisted, too. Whether it was a change from broke and semi homeless to self supporting, drunk to sober, underpaid to well paid, worker to boss, boss to worker, always the ripples.

They won't change. What you described sounded like something you do not enjoy or find rewarding. Maybe the ideas of others don't apply because they aren't doing what you do, but the principles of how things work apply.
If what you related is carved in stone, and you can't even lay down payment rules, then it is not a fair trade. That's a tough choice.

John said...

I'm not sure that sounded the way I wanted it to.
I don't know

MrScribbler said...

John -- Your comment made sense. Came out all right.