Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cherry Pie Don't Come For Free

Last week I wrote about the joys of home cooking, and then, in my Thanksgiving-induced food coma, I promptly forgot to add a second entry. Sorry, loyal fans! (Also: LOLZ.)

Over the last few week, I've been thinking more and more about What I'm Going To Do With My Life. Dad, I know that you're clutching your laptop in one hand and your chest with the other, shouting, "Just get a job, dammit! Temp agencies! Call one!" and if you were Jewish, you'd tack on a hearty "oy vey" and a headshake or two. Because you are Polish, you will likely just sigh and reap your crops, and by that I mean mow the lawn. And I'm working on it! Job hunting is one of the worst jobs to do, because it's all work and no feedback. You know those cartoon jobs of endless cubicle farms and beige phones? The ones where all the workers are the same, and that sameness makes them crazy? (You know this cliche. Scott Adams built an empire on it.) That is job hunting. It sucks at your soul.

Naturally, between applying for jobs, I've been daydreaming about My Perfect Job. I love writing, and, despite a missed self-imposed deadline or two over the years, I've been pretty good at updating and maintaining this blog, which has led directly to a 2009 internship at Spacing and to a more recent twice-monthly gig at the Huffington Post Canada, both nice feathers in my cap. But, as of yet, I haven't sold an actual piece of writing to an actual publication. This has proven to be somewhat of a stumbling block in considering myself a writer, psychologically speaking.

Ariel Gore, in her excellent book How To Become A Famous Writer Before You're Dead, recommends that writers create alter egos to tackle the less amazing parts of being a writer. Your alter ego is in charge of the beggy follow-up emails, of reading contracts, of money stuff, of rejections, and of all the less-than-ethereal aspects of being A Person Who Writes.

I'm likely going to have to develop a split personality, since I tend to go into a tailspin when something gets rejected, and my authoress self has yet to make an appearance due to a deficit of any real authoring. On Gore's advice, I'm going to call my bad-ass version Cherry Pie: she'll grapple with the crappy feelings brought on by extremely cheerful and supportive rejection correspondence from The Hairpin, and I will be in charge of the women's writing circle-themed erotica and pitching short stories to Canadian small presses. Should I have any degree of success, I will honor Ms. Pie by dying a chunk of my hair fire-engine red: that's how you'll know I've sold something.

I like to think that there's an alter ego for my alter ego: the Person Who Writes, who wears flowy linen pants and has great, wild, creative-person hair. If Cherry Pie is like Rosie the Riveter, only with more tattoos and a really terrific phone voice, then my creative side is a woman named Roshonda: a woman who smokes vanilla cigarillos and who owns a large, well-trained dog. Both Roshonda and Cherry Pie have their benefits and drawbacks: Cherry's a big-hearted den mother, but she's got no self-control when it comes to vegan cheesecake and will eventually get happily fat; Roshonda's got the creative chops, but she's a terrible sleeper and will steal your pillows from between your knees.

There's been a recent mini-media storm about young people and our allegedly slutty creative ways. We're just giving it away for free on the street corner, apparently, with our free blogs and our Huffington Post contributions. This is irking more established writers, like Russell Smith who argued that new writers are somehow devaluing the creative industry standards that older writers worked so hard to implement.

To this I say: Russell! You have a job. A writing job! A rare, published, marketable writing job! Smith is tough to defend, since it's been a long-ass time since he's been hungry for a job. In my mind, a blog is like a photographer's portfolio or a designer's sketchbook: examples of what a client might get if she paid for it.
Some of my writer friends make a point of never working for free, but almost all of us have personal blogs. Ain't nothing wrong with giving it away for free, selling some work and not others, or working exclusively for the paycheck.

Where is Kaitlyn in all of this; where am I? Well, did I mention the job hunting? The blogging? The feeling not-quite-there-yet in terms of writing? I'm still figuring out a way to not get teary-eyed when someone says, "No thanks, this isn't quite right!" both in the traditional professional settings - I am a basket case before job interviews, no question about it - and in these new creative attempts. It'll take time. Smith and Topping might scoff at my free internet writing, but those guys can blow it out their ears: I have Roshonda and Cherry Pie on my side.

No comments:

Post a Comment