Writers vs. Snow Tires
In today's blog-happy world, is there a difference?
By Harry Kirsbaum
f you're looking for a Valentine-themed "First Love"
or"How I Caught VD on Valentine's Day" column,
you'll have to find one in the February issues of
Glamour magazine or Mademoiselle or Car and Driver.
I'm too busy trying to improve my own brand.
Until I took a Linkedln class at JVS last year, my only
previous thoughts of branding were in 1996, when
I considered pledging Michael Jordan's frat — as a
41-year-old white Jew.
The definition has changed since then, and now I've
learned that I should consider myself not as a living,
breathing writer in search of work, but a
useful commodity and a brand to
be sold — a pair of snow tires
looking for a couple of axles.
And Linkedln — the business-
person's answer to Facebook
— has the resources to get my
snow tires out there.
So, getting in front of this
new New Year's resolution, I added
contacts to my Linkedln accounts
and joined several Linkedln writing groups in
November and December.
But recently, I've been troubled by a few of the ques-
tions members asked in one of the writing groups.
One member wondered if she could call herself a
writer if she had never been published. Another mem-
ber had been asked to write several 500-word stories
for a website for $5 each — and wondered if they were
These two questions perfectly encapsulate
the downhill direction that writing is taking
because 20 years ago, neither one of these
questions would even have been asked.
in a cloud of data.
Twenty years ago, when AOL was battling it out with
Compuserve over dial-up modems, it cost money to
stay online indefinitely.
As the world became more wired and technology
made easy access to almost everything ever written
or seen on video, a 13-year-old bat mitzvah, college
coed or a lumberjack could start a webpage and blog
to tell anyone and everyone how he/she was feeling.
They could also start a Facebook page, or post tweets
on Twitter and share thoughts 140 characters at a time
If they journaled the same thoughts 20 years ago,
or posted them on Facebook yesterday, besides the
increased number of readers, would they be any more
or less of a writer?
Personally, I don't think you can call yourself a writer
until you've had your first fight with an editor.
To the lowballing question, 20 years ago people
bought books, magazines and newspapers or checked
them out of a library.
It took time and money for publishers to produce
the reading material, and although most professional
writers or reporters didn't make the big bucks, they
would never, ever write a 500-word story for $5. In the
"you get what you pay for" realm, the publication never
would have offered that price to a real writer.
So, the answer to the second question is quite easy.
Ask the content mill, "If I write'r@A you; 250 times,
how long will it take to get paid?"
When I started my writing career, I thought that
I would always be at a newspaper and that I would
always see my words in print and on paper. I never
thought that technology would make my career almost
obsolete. I never thought I would be comparing my
career to selling snow tires. I guess I'm old school that
Let's just remember that the Dead Sea Scrolls were
written on parchment, not burned onto a CD. Unless
we make hard copies of everything we write, if a
latter-day Indiana Jones unearths a floppy disk
in 4012, or even 2312, will someone he knows
have an IBM-compatible PC to download the
information? And what if the floppy contains
porn? Will he get any work done for the rest
of that day?
Come to read
srox Ish C,,,nronta 0
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