Sunday, May 21, 2006

Trivial Pursuits

I've reached a crossroads in my life. It was as simple as that earlier last week as I sent an email to the other half which contained my concerns. Those concerns were that I either had to give my writing up almost completely, finish what I had on my desk and concentrate on a government job that's clearly going nowhere, or give up the day job, pare it down to part time and really get stuck into my writing. I didn't want an instant answer, I wanted her to seriously think about the ramifications of my words, because concentrating on writing would see a huge, and immediate, dip in our combined income. Writing, especially in Australia where writers aren't really valued unless you're writing the most puerile works of fiction, are already famous or engaging in sensationalism journalism, just doesn't pay money. Mention to anyone you're a writer and they think of Harry Potter or Steven King and think you're rolling in it.

Here's the wake up call. Since forming my web-site, writing two articles for Back Issue , contributing an interview and an article, plus art, to the Kryptonian Companion, a handful of Alter Egos, and completing one book , with two more on the way I've made a grand total of USD$180. Yep, that's all that's come in. I'll see not a cent from my 18 months of solid work on the Andru/Esposito book, I'll see about the same for the Jim Mooney book. The third, as yet still unannounced, book that I'll be doing will see an advance paid to me, eventually, but that'll still only be a three figure sum. So that's USD$180 for three years worth of work.

You get more working for pittance. No more gruel for me. I won't be able to afford it.

In that spirit the other half did consider, strongly, what I was putting to her and decided that she wanted to see me continue with the writing. So I may lose weight from the lack of food, but at least I'll finish a load of half written articles (including my pet project on MacArthur and Terowie) and transcribe some seriously overdue tapes.

This weekend has seen me working like a dog to transcribe a two hour plus conversation that I had with Norm Breyfogle and Alan Grant in regards to their Batman work. I feel fired up by it - it's a great interview and I'm sure that it'll make for a great article when it's finished. It'll be appearing in a future issue of Back Issue and that's what makes it worthwhile. Not the money - because there isn't any - but the joy and thrill of seeing it all in print and having people say, "Jeez guy, I really enjoyed that." That and seeing an article appear, either on-line or in print, and knowing that you're drawing attention to the subjects and, more often than not, seeing it lead to future work for them.

That's what writing is all about. If anyone is out there and thinking, "Hey, I'm gonna be a writer and make millions of dollars" just allow me to offer this advice. Don't bother. You'll work long, hard days and make bugger all. In fact you'll probably get ripped off along the way, see your work stolen and re-printed elsewhere and see other people make money off your back. It's happened to me all through my career - from the days of writing about bands for It Magazine (and there's a story in there for ya) through to now. For some writers there is no honour, and it shows. I've seen articles I've written stolen - in some cases word for word - and reprinted in cheap books. I wrote an article on INXS only to see the bulk of my work, and ALL of my research appear in a crappy, cash in book about Michael Hutchence. Naturally the author denied it at first and then claimed he'd gotten permission. He didn't get permission. I've seen the fruits of my labours appearing (unattributed, of course, because attribution would imply theft) in books about U2, Kiss, R.E.M. and others, not to mention the amount of web-sites. And that was my music days. I got paid, for the most part, for the original articles, but I saw nothing from the theft of my work. And when I chased people down all I got was a shrug and a simple, "So sue me". That's the attitude. With what I'm writing now it's a bit easier to expose the theft when it happens (which reminds me, I'll have to write about my experiences writing for IT Magazine soon - the names I could name!).

So don't get into writing for the money, because if you do then you'll be greatly let down. Don't do it for the fame either. Absolutely no-one within Australia, outside of my family and my immediate circle of friends, knows who I am or what I've done. Nope, if you want fame then write for a newspaper or a tabloid magazine. Wait for someone famous to kill themselves and bash out a quick cash in book - no need to actually write it, you can steal articles and contemporary newspaper reports as a lot of others do. More people will get to know you that way. All you have to do there is sell your soul and become something so slimy and ugly that you'll never look at yourself in a mirror, but people will flock to you because you'll be appealing to the lowest common denominator. Writing books and articles has given me no fame at all - good thing in a way - but it'd be nice to have some form of recognition...but I'd rather continue to do it my way, on my terms and remain anonymous (as opposed to unknown - I'm well known in the circles that I work within) than to give into the lure of being a shitbag and known for it forever.

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