Tuesday, October 19, 2004


The best-laid plans and all...

There was a point when I was going to post here daily, and now it's become more like weekly. I didn't want it to happen, but there's a decided listlessness around here these days. Some of it I'll gladly lay at the feet of that damn cold, which is still a tiny bit in evidence. But there's also the fact that writing begets writing, and there were days not so long ago when I'd spend three or four hours working on an article, then come over here and post.

Well, that hasn't happened in a while. I can even see the downward spiral: in late August, I was beginning to get some meaningful work for the first time in a long while, work that went beyond my regular Fresh Air pieces, which only run occasionally. There was the rush to do all the Ars Electronica stuff, and the intellectual exercise that attending that event gave me led to my finally writing a huge piece on the future of the record industry as I saw it. It's a wonderful piece, and I'm very proud of it, and if the guy who commissioned it had edited it when I sent it to him we would have been on the web (it's a subscription-only web magazine) at the same time as Wired magazine's "long tail" article, an article on Nonesuch Records in the New York Times which made a similar point, and another article in the L.A. Weekly, which also bears on the topic. As it is, it's been a month since I sent it to him, and he keeps saying he'll get back to me and he doesn't. It'll be quite dated by the time he gets back to me, even if that happens tomorrow.

Plus, of course, I don't get paid until it's accepted.

Same with another magazine, which has had my article since Aug. 31. They wouldn't do business until I signed a writer's agreement. I asked them not to send it, since they were FedExing it, until I got back from Ars Electronica. So of course they sent it that weekend, and after three delivery tries, FedEx lost the damn thing. It took another three weeks to get another copy (the secretary wouldn't risk FedEx again, for some reason), another week to get it to them, signed, and now...silence.

And I don't get paid by them, either, until the editor gets back to me.

So right now I have four cents in my pocket, a promise of an international money order on its way from England (and good luck cashing that!), and, fortunately, enough food to last me through Thursday morning. I just finished a Fresh Air piece which I'll record tomorrow, so I'll get paid for that within a week, most likely, and I've got dribs and drabs to do, but sheesh, is it any wonder I don't get excited about waking up and writing? Once again, my life gets reduced to hunter-gatherer status, as I have to restrict my focus to the very most basic necessities of life: finding food, maintaining shelter.

It's bad enough that every penny I make other than what I need to feed myself goes to my landlord -- no chance for travel or recreation -- but with the horizons constricted, it's hard to dream, to come up with ideas for stuff I could be writing. When you spend two weeks writing a piece like my music-industry piece, filled with some fairly radical theorizing and lots of big ideas, and then it just sits there getting old, well, you don't have to be Pavlov to figure out where that kind of feedback gets you.

This is not a way to make a living. If you've ever fantasized doing it, forget it and find something useful to do. I'm about to turn 56 and I'm still writing for a dime a word. What a waste of whatever talent I may possess.

And see, this is another reason I haven't posted here much of late. I don't really think there's much to be gained by my whining about my life and work, when I should be writing stuff about what I see around me and how I feel about it, a supplement to the other stuff I'm writing for pay. So, confronted with that, I just don't post anything.

A sort of promise: I've been invited to the opening of the new Berlinische Galerie on Friday. Assuming they got my faxed RSVP, I'm going to take my notebook along and take notes -- if I can get close enough to any of the art to see it, of course, since these events tend to be packed -- and post the notes here over the weekend.

Wish me luck not starving to death before then.

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