Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Goals 'n' Holes

Right at the moment, I have two numbers stuck in my head. €3000 and €30,000.

The first represents what it would take to get me back on my feet. One article in the right magazine could do it. With some of it I'd pay off some more of my rent, but some would go towards paying my expenses to do one of a couple of stories I have in mind to do, which expenses would, of course, be paid back by the magazine that would print it. This is the bind a lot of writers find themselves in: you have to lay out money in order to do stories, but you never have any to lay out. You always get it back, but it just takes a while.

There being so few stories I see happening here in Berlin that would be of any interest to any magazine I can conceive writing for, I'd have to travel. I don't mind this at all: I have a discount card for Deutsche Bahn, and their trains get you there comfortably (mostly) and on time (mostly). There's also been an eruption of low-cost airlines for those journeys that are just too far to endure on the train, and I've found a great website that takes all the pain out of nabbing those super-cheap fares. (Thanks to Taxi Joe for that website, too!)

All I need is the money and the green light from someone. I've got one pitch out there, to cover this year's Ars Electronica festival , which I'm determined to do for a number of reasons, not least that my friend Carl Stone is going to be performing there, and I want to do a story on him, too.

So you see how this stuff snowballs?

Now the larger figure, €30,000, is the big kahuna. It's probably too big, but it represents what it would take to get me moved and settled elsewhere, which, after all, is my big goal at the moment. And I'm factoring in at least one disaster, as well as a sumptuous dinner for my friend John , who's agreed to drive the truck loaded with my crap to wherever I go. The figure represents paying back all the debts I've incurred over the past few years due to the implosion of my writing career, research into a place to move (currently leading the pack is a place I've never been, but which comes highly recommended, Montpellier -- and if you can get that damn webcam on that site to work, send me an e-mail and tell me how you did it), make the decision, rent a place there, purchase things that need to be purchased (European apartments usually come with nothing whatever in them, so I'm thinking stove and washing machine and stuff), and be ready to plug and play.

Nor is this an absurd figure to consider, even as I sit here, ten months behind in my rent and with only a couple tiny gigs coming up. It could easily be achieved with a book advance, and it doesn't even need to come in one lump. The research alone is going to take time, since making a mistake could be costly and crazy-making, and I don't need to be made any crazier than I am at the moment, thanks. But I'm determined to find some agent who's willing to hear some of my ideas, who's also willing to get me some magazine work at first while I whack out some brilliant proposals, and who won't dismiss ideas out of hand. There's gotta be one out there somewhere. And I'm not a totally unknown commodity, either.

The big factor working against this, though is Sommerloch. That translates as "summer-hole," and it's in full force already. Europe shuts down in the summertime; I tried to buy some sausage to make Cajun food out of the other day, and the vendor is closed until September. Someone on Orkut chased down a web-based German dealer of Croatian wines after I expressed curiosity about the Plava Malec grape which is supposed to be identical to zinfandel, but they're closed, too. Nearly all of the few people I still know in Berlin are on vacation until at least the end of this month, and I'm also, I'm sure, going to have to be dealing with people's vacations in the U.S., particularly in the publishing business? What agent is going to be working in August? Don't be ridiculous. And the chances of my finding someone in the next two weeks are...well, just a bit thin.

So it's business as usual around here: trying desperately to find enough work to stay alive, while keeping uppermost in my mind the necessity of forging ahead. And trying not to panic about it. And succeeding. Most of the time.

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