Tips for Surviving Professionally in a Time of Catastrophic Change
I don’t know these writers’ political affiliation, but watching these talks gave me a hint of why – besides discrimination, and yes, there has been that -- anyone who is even on the fringes of the field has heard enough to be sure that in traditional publishing liberals have, in general, done better than conservatives.
To the extent not all of it is explained by discrimination, there is a different attitude. All I could think listening to the talks of the risks these people took was “I could never put my husband and family through that” and “I could never take that much of a financial risk.” But those financial risks, and yes, putting your family through that, were often what was needed to stand out in traditional publishing.
In the new world? I think some of it still applies. As much as we conservatives/libertarians are more likely to be family people and to be afraid of imposing our weight into the world, we also have read enough to know that in writing and in every other field, sometimes you have to gamble it all to get a good enough pay off. And, hey, if you fail you can always start again.
Perhaps one of the leveling effects of catastrophic change in artistic fields is that when everything is changing fast there is no security anywhere. While it was always true that you could “do everything right” and get nowhere, before there was the illusion of a “safe path to success.” Of course, the only really safe path was gone long before I came on the scene. But I didn’t know that, and neither did anyone else. We had this myth-like version of breaking in, writing for increasingly better publications, building your readership, eventually becoming a bestseller. In fact, it worked not at all like that – if you didn’t “break out” on your first three books and impress the publishers with your daring and confidence, you were out in the cold.
This applied before catastrophic change came to publishing, but it applies to catastrophic change in publishing and other fields as well: Stay informed. Read/talk to/listen to other people in the field. This is much easier in the age of blogging, of course, than it was in pre-history when I broke in.
You are not wedded to one single path, one single way to do things. You can improvise as you go along, and the results are unlikely to be forever.
You might be a conservative in habits; you might crave security. There’s not likely to be much security for anyone in the middle of technology changing our way of life so drastically. The only security is likely to come from staying ahead of the tumbles and changes. And that comes from staying informed, realizing when things have changed or are about to change, and making the next move before the rug is yanked from under you.
Oh, yeah, and if I have the money next year, I will take the Superstars Writing Seminar. I will do it with notebook and pen. And I’ll try to adapt what I hear, even what is about the old model, to ways to stay ahead of the earthquake.
Something old can be made new. And I’m not about to make a breezy comment that ends in blue.
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