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2013 – There and Back Again

30 Dec
Image by dickdavid shared under a Creative Commons License

Image by dickdavid shared under a Creative Commons License

If you, like me, have emerged bleary eyed but largely unscathed from the annual festive fuckwittery that descends during the seemingly never-ending Christmas season, you’ll probably be reflecting on the events of the last year. (I’m not much of a Christmas person.)

2013 was a mixed year for lots of reasons. A divisive political figure died and had a big funeral that a much-hated politician cried at. Another divisive political figure died, and a bunch of world leaders took a selfie during his memorial service. A woman gave birth to a baby boy, and everyone had an opinion on it. A woman twerked on American television, and everyone had an opinion on it. Far too many of the UK’s most vulnerable continue to suffer because of benefit sanctions, welfare cuts and increasingly inhumane policies brought in by an increasingly inhumane government has continued their mission to punish the poor with nonsensical expenses and create tax breaks for the rich.

And I still can’t twerk or take a decent selfie. But, I digress.

This time last year, I worked full-time for an online marketing company. I’d taken the job because it was better paid than the one I’d had before, and, as I’d reasoned at the time, working 9-5 during the week gave me ample time to write, review and do everything else that I wanted to do.

However, I had a dream, a few dreams, in fact; I wanted to write, and I wanted to write on a freelance basis on my own terms. I longed to be my own boss and work on projects that I could see to fruition. I wanted to get out there, network and meet more people, not be stuck at a desk everyday, working on projects that might never reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Yet, the logical part of me (there is a sensible voice somewhere in my head) told me to stop dreaming; that my job was more than enough, that it was paying the bills and for a while, my dreams were pushed aside. It wasn’t long before they resurfaced, bobbing up and down in my subconscious, like the remnants of magnificent and mighty shipwreck. There they remained, always on the horizon, always waiting, and always just out of reach.

My day job kept me busy – too busy – and before long I realised that my writing had taken second place next to a job that I didn’t enjoy, that I didn’t want to do, and was taking up more and more of my time. I felt constantly tired, I was taking work home with me, getting stressed, not sleeping, and always worrying, worrying, worrying about what I hadn’t done, and what I needed to be doing.

I knew life as a freelance writer would be difficult, and that money wouldn’t be guaranteed, but I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t let the fear of failure hold me back, and as far as I was concerned, I’d already lost enough time working in an office when I wanted to be anywhere else but there. So, in August, I made the proverbial leap of faith; I gave my employer five weeks notice, and set about applying for jobs.

It was tough, a lot harder than I thought it would be; over a month after I left the relative safety of the 9-5 world, and after many, many rejections, unanswered applications and ignored speculative emails, all I managed to get was seasonal work delivering flyers for a well-known venue. There were days that I would go around town with my CV, handing it in to any business that was advertising for staff: shops, bars, coffeehouses – anywhere. I never heard back from any of them.

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I remember, and I knew I had to give it my best shot. Eventually, and through a dear friend, I managed to get some regular writing work, working on articles and blog posts for, you’ve guessed it, an online marketing company. I also work part-time in a restaurant, thanks to another old friend who was looking for staff, and so, I have days off during the week, where I can balance my personal writing with my work writing. It’s not the most comfortable way of living; I’ve made sacrifices in order to pay the bills (gone are the days of Spotify Premium, LoveFilm and buying brand new clothes whenever and wherever) but it’s a much better way to live.

I may have made a few mistakes along the way, and leaving the comfort of a stable job to follow your dreams without a back up plan isn’t the most logical thing I’ve ever done (whatever happened to that sensible voice in my head?), but sod logical. I’ve made the first step on a long journey of happiness, and I’m really enjoying this new beginning. In fact. I’m proud of what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved and I’m looking forward to what I will do in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Seven Alternative Job Titles For Arts Journalists

11 Dec
Image by Gwendal_ used under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Gwendal_ used under a Creative Commons Licence

Freelance Journalist

With publications haemorrhaging money like stuck pigs on a daily basis, they’ve been forced to lay off staff writers to save money. The downside of this is that lots of immensely talented writers have lost their job security.

The upside is that many publications have a freelance budget and will be looking for writers, people who are just like you and me, looking to pitch stories, meet new contacts and get paid for it.

The downside of that is you are competing with some of the industry’s best and most well-known journalists for work. Some publications are terrible at paying invoices on time and you won’t have a guaranteed income from month to month.

Good luck!

Content Creator

A bullshit job title created for journalists by non-journalists who are trying to sound relevant in an increasingly digital age.

Created by online marketer-types to make accepted industry terms like copywriter seem redundant and oh so retro. Journalists do not “create content” journalists write news stories, reviews, previews, interviews and other fun and important things.

See also: Web Content Guru, Web Editor, Word Architect and Senior Syntax Engineer (I might have made some of these titles up. Yes, I definitely did.)

Contributor

A more acceptable title for someone who contributes articles or other works to a site or newspaper. Falls between a staff writer (someone employed by the publication on a full-time basis) and a freelancer, who work on a more casual basis. (see Freelance Journalist for more information).

All in all, this isn’t the worst title on the list, it’s just that’s not very clear; are contributors writers, photographers, artists or editors? This could be one for the corrections and clarifications column.

Sub-Editor

If you’re a struggling journalist, one way to make a bit more money is to find work as a sub-editor for a publication, which means that you’ll be correcting everyone else’s grammatical, factual and ethical errors, and getting very little in return for it. Except money.

While sub-editors are needed badly, they don’t seem to get a lot of respect from their fellow hacks, perhaps because they can sometimes get a little too enthusiastic with the delete button. However, every paper needs a sub-editor, and a lot of journalism schools offer short courses in the subject, so, it could be a fun and enlightening way to make some extra money.

Dramaturg/Special Advisor

The most commonly asked question about the role of the dramaturg is usually, “What’s a dramaturg?” It may sound a bit like the theatrical illness outbreak du jour, “I can’t come to rehearsal today, I woke up feeling like a dramaturg this morning”,  the role of the dramaturg is essential to a theatre production.

Put simply, a dramaturg could be described as an in-house critic; a person that researches, provides cultural and historical insight into the text, liaises with the director, playwright, designer and other crew they are also sometimes as a translator, or a simple communicator who provides critical feedback on a piece while it’s in production. A dramaturg wears many hats, and does several different things depending on the company, the production and the venue, so a good dramaturg is knowledgeable, adaptable and ready for a challenge.

This means a dramaturg could be the perfect role for a theatre critic seeking a new direction in their career, or a those looking to diversify their skills. In film, or another art form, a critic could be a special advisor, which is a particularly useful role for arts journalists with specialist knowledge of a certain era in film, director or subject.

PR

The relationship between PRs and journalists can be strained at the best of times, but more and more journalists are turning to the so-called ‘Dark Side’ and relaunching themselves in the world of PR. From a business and financial point of view, this makes a lot of sense, the pay is a bit better, you can use your many journalism contacts, etc, I’ve often found that the best PRs are the ones that have worked as journalists.

While some might wrestle with the idea of not reporting the news, and instead pitching ideas that could become big news stories, for others it’s become a way of life. PR pays very well if you work for a good agency, and have a senior position, which would suit many cash-strapped journalists in our era of austerity.

Unemployed

I’ll see you in the dole queue.

What Your Job Rejection Letter Really Means

31 Oct
Image by Caro Wallis, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Caro Wallis, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Dear Applicant,

[Hello, nameless unemployed person, whose name we can’t be bothered to learn because we’re far too busy having a job and giving back to society.]

Thank you for your application for the role of Meaningless Job Title, with little pay and fewer prospects.

[Well, we have to credit you for something.]

Sorry for the delay in responding to your email.

[Yes, it’s been 8 weeks, but you don’t need to remind us, you impatient cretin, we’ve been busy working. Do you remember what ‘working’ is?]

Unfortunately…

[Surprise, surprise!]

… on this occasion you were unsuccessful.

[You’ll never work here in a million years]

Due to the large number of applications, we are unable to offer feedback.

[It took us 8 weeks to let you know you didn’t get the job, but you’re not getting any feedback because you’re lucky we emailed you to say no in the first place, you filthy rat.]

Thank you for your interest in our organisation

[Our organisation is so awesome. We just had to validate it with that sentence. See what we did there?]

and we wish you well for the future.

[You’re going to need it, jackass.]

Yours sincerely,

[Go fuck yourself!]

Stranger Name

[A person you will never meet or hear from again, because they’re far too busy working.]

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