Aug 27, 2005

Freelance Woes

How times have changed. I just read Louis Menand's bracing profile of Edmund Wilson, and this quote jumped out:
“To write what you are interested in writing and to succeed in getting editors to pay for it, is a feat that may require pretty close calculation and a good deal of ingenuity,” [Wilson] once explained. “You have to learn to load solid matter into notices of ephemeral happenings; you have to develop a resourcefulness at pursuing a line of thought through pieces on miscellaneous and more or less fortuitous subjects; and you have to acquire a technique of slipping over on the routine of editors the deeper independent work which their over-anxious intentness on the fashions of the month or the week have conditioned them automatically to reject.”

Elsewhere Menand refers to Wilson's "ingrained indifference to material comforts" as being among the factors that "allowed him, from almost the beginning of his career, to write about only the subjects he wanted to write about." I don't know if it's ingrained in me yet, but I'm getting there.

Contrast that with Ben Yagoda's despairing take on the current lot of freelancers in Slate:
Modern titles, formatted to within an inch of their lives, require freelancers to shape experience into small, breezy portions that extol the lifestyle or consumer culture the magazine and its advertisers are looking to promote. The ultimate upside isn't the creation of a cultural event, but the creation of buzz.

Time to polish up the resumé and look for a full-time gig. Or, in an entirely different vein, follow the advice of this book.

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