Friday, May 01, 2009

So I've worked at the writer's trade. Writing has been what I've done for income, in one form or another, as well as what I've mostly done, for one medium or another. Apart from my book, I've published in major newspapers and national magazines, and even some international ones. My writing for clients included some big projects. My resume looks pretty impressive.

People have been writing professionally for a very long time. There were patrons--kings, churches, etc.--and there were little writing jobs ( as a girl or a young woman, my maternal grandmother got paid to read and write letters for other girls in her village who weren't literate.) Getting paid through publications has been a primary source of writer income for a few centuries.

Now they say this job is also becoming obsolete. Although newspaper reporters often will insist they are not really "writers," they are just about the only people who write who have steady jobs, with union benefits. But now newspapers are dying one by one, and companies with multiple newspapers in many places are teetering.

The magazine business is also endangered, and so is book publication. Within publications, particular fields are fading or gone. There are few theatre critics left, and partly as a reflection of the declining book business, book reviewing and book reviews are disappearing.

Except for a very very few, writing in my lifetime has not been all that lucrative. Freelance rates were arguably seldom if ever at the level that they were in the 1920s, say, inflation adjusted. (In fact, sometimes they were identical, inflation not adjusted.) But the current crunch began contracting my income sources several years ago. My magazine markets having dried up, I began freelancing for newspapers. In one year, I had pieces in five separate sections of the San Francisco Chronicle. The next year most of the paper stopped assigning freelance pieces completely, and the others bought fewer. The Book Review was the last, when my editor was replaced, and then that editor was also replaced within a month or so. Now the future of the section and of the newspaper itself is in doubt.

I wrote my first piece in years for the New York Times, which the editor loved and we began discussing future assignments, when the order came down at that paper to stop all freelance assignments in the arts section.

Some of the changes for me are to be expected at my age--I'm not the demographic for subjects I used to write about, and frankly they don't interest me anymore. But I saw this article recently by a young writer, about even younger writers. It's called "Is writing for the rich?" [continued below]

No comments: