Whew! I don’t want to say that these past 16 days together at home were too many for our family, but I was hopping this morning. I nearly shooed the daughter and husband out the door. There was plenty of fun — ice skating, movies, visits with friends — but by Saturday, I had run out of ideas. I didn’t even want to go to the library, people. That is serious.
We’ve been making New Year’s resolutions around here. Eleanor apparently wants to learn to play the piano. And I plan to only accept jobs that pay me what I am worth. (“Who’s going to take care of the children?” Greg asked.) Correction: I plan to only accept writing/editing jobs that pay me what I am worth.
When I began freelancing, I felt that I needed some writing clips to prove myself. I wasn’t giving stuff away, but I wasn’t willing to haggle over pay either. Now I have plenty of clips, not to mention two degrees in journalism. And still I find myself writing for outlets that pay me less than I made at my first reporting job when I was 19. Because I really want to work, and if I can work for recognized newspapers and magazines, all the better. Unfortunately, those outlets know that everyone wants to write for them, and so they keep cutting their pay. I’ve seen cuts of 50 percent in the past year. When I see other writers posting bylines from these places, I become suspicious. How are they earning a living? Marketing job on the side? Sudden inheritance from a reclusive great-aunt?
We’re supposed to accept these unlivable wages because we’re getting exposure. I cannot eat exposure. Nor can my children, though I am working on a proposal to fix that. I am hoping that our local grocery store will give me free food in exchange for my writing nice tweets about it.
I have found a few jobs via this exposure, but I have found far more jobs via my friends and former colleagues.
If I can’t single-handedly solve the problem (and I can’t), at least I can quit contributing to it. That probably means doing less journalism and more marketing because journalism has a problem paying its bills. I love you journalism, but you need to pull yourself together. In my fantasy world, all of us writers would boycott these outlets and the public would finally realize the value of our work and be willing to pay a fair amount for it. I can dream.
So my work this year might be less prominent and elicit fewer responses. I’m trading exposure for dignity.