Writing is a strange beast, so I’ve come to learn.
I’ve made some pretty big strides in my attempt to make writing a career. Two years ago, I was mired in a job at a healthcare company, with only pipe dreams of having my own column someday. Now, I DO have my own column (with a headshot and everything!) for a local New Jersey weekly newspaper. However, my dream of drawing an actual income from writing has been thwarted by a) the fact that my actual job at the newspaper is that of circulation manager — my column is merely a benefit of me working there, and b) the fact that nobody reads the paper I write for. Well, at least nobody who can remember what they ate for lunch.
The newspaper of which I am employed has been around for fifty years, and its loyal readers range in age from 85 to deceased. In fact, it is part of my job to field the various phone calls from 97 year-old women who did not get the paper that week (I blame it on the Post Office, always), and who are, apparently, in dire need to keep abreast of the hot-button local issues our paper covers, like “School board meeting a success,” and “December: The cold month.” My unique brand of sports-related sarcastic humor does not necessarily appeal to the genre of “people whose grandkids just retired.” Old people do not care about Ron Artest, much less my opinion of him, and nor do they “get” my frequent references to Paris Hilton. After all, there are more important things to worry about, like who died, and why the print in our newspaper is so small.
Nevertheless, I’ve been trying. A few months ago my mom bought me a book called, “Writer’s Market,” which lists all of the various outlets that you (as in, “I”) can send your (as in “my”) writing to. But of course, it’s not that simple. You can’t just send your writing somewhere, because it will immediately get thrown into a pile of rejected Marmaduke cartoons and banana peels. In most cases, you send what is called a “query,” which is a 100-word or less description of what you actually wrote. This makes little sense to me, since most of my writing is 500 words of nonsense, and my queries would read like, “An exploration as to whether I should continue to shave my back, or get laser hair removal surgery.” I’m sure that most media outlets in the country would just be stepping over each other to get their hands on the rest of that story. Regardless, I did find a couple of places that accepted manuscripts in full, although one of them suggested not to send anything their way if it didn’t force them to “pee their pants.” With laughter, that is. And while this particular media source doesn’t seem to be as professional as say, “Time” magazine, I still sent them several samples of my writing anyway. From the lack of response I have received thus far, I am left to assume that they are still using urinals.
Besides freelancing, I’ve considered other options as well, like writing for a daily newspaper. My sales pitch goes like this: “Hi! My name is Mike Kenny. I know you probably have 25 reporters who are dying to have a column, but why don’t you give ME one instead? I have no journalism degree, and no experience, although I currently write for a small paper that nobody reads. I am also tall. Looking forward to hearing from you! P.S. My salary requirement is at least $40,000, and I need a week off in November because I am going to a wedding in Florida.”
Everybody I know has been trying to help me out though. I have been put in contact with approximately 346 people over the past three years who are associated with the field of writing in some capacity. Some of these people never called me back, even after I sent them my resume, and made various threats via voice mail. Others have offered me helpful advice like, “Go back to school,” which is great to hear considering I can barely afford to pay back the school I already attended. (And what school, exactly, will help me hone my skills for writing whole columns about how I got over my fear of pooping in public restrooms? It’s not like I’m doing political commentary here.) Still, others have offered me even better advice like, “Have you thought about getting the ‘Writer’s Market’ book?” Yes. Yes I have. Of course, the REAL advice I am looking for is, “Would you like a job writing for us?” Yes. Yes I would.
I am becoming more convinced that if I want to do this, I’m going to have to do it on my own. I am considering putting a book together of all my various columns, publishing it independently, and then promoting it on “The Today Show,” or a similar nationally televised morning show. If that doesn’t work, I may, as the cliché goes, sell the books out of the back of my pick-up truck. To profit from the publishing fees, each copy will cost $1,000, but will include a copy of my resume, absolutely free.
But even that plan would require a more extensive body of work, and more money that I do not currently have. This writing thing can get fairly frustrating at times. A lesser man would be left to assume that he sucks at writing, but I am not yet convinced. Four thousand local senior citizens can’t be wrong.