Thursday, 30 December 2010

No Use Crying Over Split Infinitives

New Year's Resolutions are rubbish, aren't they.

Mostly everyone has a vague notion that they'll eat less crap and exercise more. Maybe they'll also be a bit tidier. This falls apart either:
a) instantly, when you awake at 1pm on New Year's Day and realise it is the time for a Doctor Who marathon and piles of crisps, or:
b) more gradually over the first few weeks of the year as you remember that January is horrible and exercise makes you feel sad.

But we do it anyway, because it's nice to aspire to something less obese and poor-skinned than we are currently.

My New Year's Resolution, aside from the whole writing 12 books thing, is to get paid for my words.

I write a lot, about a variety of things, and some of it's not half bad. I do local news, fiction, humour, film and music reviews, comics, comment pieces and of course I blog. I've had stuff published in lots of places this year, working full time in unrelated jobs as I went. I've written for Outlook (City of Edinburgh Council newspaper), The Link (South Edinburgh newsletter), Tales of One City (the library services blog), The Edinburgh Reporter (hyperlocal news), The Broughton Spurtle (hyper-hyperlocal news), The Chutney Exhibition (comedy), Brikolage (arts), Hecklerspray (gossip), Billygean (blog) and have secured a blogging job with The Skinny's new website - although nobody knows when that's actually going to go live. That's not bad going.

There again it occurred to me this year that I've been working away on a generic concept of 'getting as much experience as possible' for ten years now. This isn't as bad as it sounds; I started writing for the local paper at the age of 15. Over that period I have made an eye-watering forty-five of your Scottish pounds.

I don't do this because I have some kind of martyr complex. Offering my services for free is the only way I know of gaining that all important yet ill defined 'experience' craved by prospective employers. It's also the only way I know I'm going to see my name in print, which is narcissism, if anything.

There is an argument that citizen journalism and young folk like me trying to get an 'in' are destroying the profession, as if the advent of the internet hadn't already given print media in its entirety a severe bollocking. The argument goes along the lines that seasoned professionals are being made redundant all the time in favour of younger, cheaper hacks who will do the same job for half the price, and the quality of the output suffers as a result.

Frankly - naively, perhaps? - I think good writing shines through. I am more likely to read - and pay for - an article on something that doesn't interest me if it's well written. Given the choice, an editor is surely going to use something that has been properly researched and written to industry standard? Isn't it in their best interest to print readable content?

Yes, being made redundant is beyond crap, but in a profession like journalism it's hardly the end. There's a living to be made in freelancing, and you've already got the contacts, years of experience and knowledge. Do you know what young freelancers like me have? Enthusiasm, and Twitter. I can't pitch an article to an editor who I know likes me, or an old mate I used to work with on such and such a paper, because I only just finished university, and I didn't do a journalism course when I was there. Instead, I have to try and second guess total strangers who universally ignore me. (Being ignored is far more irritating than being rejected and for all you know it might be your own fault - you could be writing to the wrong person because people change jobs and email addresses all the time.)

But so what. That's how things go. And for every older hack made redundant, and every bright young thing who did the MA at Napier and is now on the Evening News for a starting salary of 16k, there are hundreds of people who never make it at all. Some of them are undoubtedly very good writers. Better than the ones who make it, probably. I can only surmise that they aren't tenacious enough, however tenacious that may be.

Perhaps 2011 is the year I will find out.

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