Wednesday, March 30, 2011

. . . Unemployment

My best mate in the whole world is unemployed at the moment, and despite the fact that he has this very broad and very deep pool of skills to draw upon, the area of the country that he is in -- Western Oregon -- is not what can be kindly thought of as a job-rich environment at the moment for codeslingers.

The whole idea of being unemployed in this economy scares the hell out of me. Being a writer I know that it is not easy to get work -- not without first putting in a lot of effort and building a contacts list, all the while taking anything you can get to tide you over until you get something regular. That is not to say that it is hard to get work as a writer because it is not -- it is just hard to get a good permanent gig as a writer, freelancing being the obvious path you take until you get something permanent.

Codeslingers don't usually work freelance -- but when they do they call it temping, not freelancing, and when they temp the pay is really bad and the jobs tend to be short. They only keep you long enough to accomplish whatever it was that caused them to look for a temporary codeslinger.

My discomfort with his situation has caused me to start encouraging him to look for work as a freelance writer -- in spite of the fact that he is a codeslinger, his degree is in English and he has solid skills as a writer, even if he has not written anything more complicated than code documentation in the past twenty years. That is not the point. The point is that he could write if he chose to, and there is work out there for writers.

I mentioned this on one of the community boards I am active on for writers. The general reaction was one of disbelief with comments like "you are telling him there are freelance writing gigs? There are not!" and other comments to that effect.

It was at this point that I asked the question their reactions prompted: aren't you guys working?

It turns out that I am one of a handful of writers on that particular board that is constantly busy -- and I just cannot figure that out. In the many conversations that ensued I learned that despite being writers very few of the people on that board know how to find jobs. Query letters? Not so much. It blows my mind that they actually sit around waiting for writing gigs to come to them! That is no way to stay busy, that is all I am saying...

When I get an idea that I think I would like to write about, I put out the effort to find an editor that will pay me for writing that piece, and then I write it. It turns out that a lot of the people on that board do it the other way around, putting out the effort to write the piece and then try to sell it, often failing. To me that makes no sense at all... It is a lot easier to write a good query letter and then the piece then the other way around, and nine times out of ten the editor that buys the piece wants a slightly different piece than the one I proposed, so if I had written it in advance I would have to start over anyway...

You gotta write -- it is what you do -- but writing on spec or worse yet, writing for free? That is no way to make a living.

So how was your week?

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