Friday, March 29, 2013

Notes on the Run

I bought my e-cigarette from a person working in the advertising industry.

Bought her a drink and I asked about that world that I haven't touched in years.

"It is no longer as it was. It used to be about ideas, but now it's all in the execution. Most times, in other things."

I thought about that, and I think I can relate.

I had a few experiences where I felt like I was a very expensive typist. And other times when I went through the grinder of writing until I could feel no more.

I used to write as many as six feature articles on some days, at The Malay Mail. Features back then were 800-2000++ words. This, at a time when other newspapers ask their news journalists write up to three reports a week. A news report is from 50-600 words or so. Journalists don't count words, in the old days. They count paras - paragraphs or lines.

I come from the Microsoft Office generation, so I count in words and characters.

Anyway, news is a grinder, with few chances and opportunities to express creativity. Those who do find the cracks, celebrate with glee.

Newspapers were basically a speed game. Lost time meant everybody has read everything everywhere. With the Internet, newspapers lost their speed, but newspaper journalists find other, faster platforms for news.

Magazines used to be the place for great, well-written articles. They sometimes still are. However, the speed culture has also influenced magazines.

I have met many editors and creative directors of magazines who preach "BUTTONS! FACT BOXES! 400 WORDS MAX!". Those people believe that readers prefer their information presented - sushi-style. Fuck the flow, the writing style. Just put it out in a shiny red box on glossy paper and people will read shit.

I read the old Reader's Digest magazines as a child. My father has a collection. 1956-1983. Best-written articles from the world's best magazines at the time - Life, Time, Newsweek.

Those magazines had more or less one to three templates in terms of design, so only the writing carried the reader's interest, most of the time. I believe the world's best articles came about during this time because of these limitations.

I will wax lyrical and wank the nostalgia penis in another article, as I recently brought my father's entire Reader's Digest collection to KL.

Anyway, talking about limitations...

I don't believe the grind is all bad, or that real creative writing has no place in the money-driven world. I believe there is a place for everything.

These days, I compartmentalise. There are pieces I do for quick money, or gamble on new technologies and platforms. I don't give a flying fuck about those. Then, there are places where pour everything in. And never shall the twain meet.

I mean, writing on social media is hardly satisfying. Try updating a corporate Facebook account every day for a year, and you will see what I mean. You get rubbed down to a nub and it takes everything to maintain your sanity. But there's money there. Woo fucking hoo.

You do vanity projects - your own vanity - or you write for the sheer fun of it, and it will come out great. It's fun, it's fresh and you get that all-important satisfaction. Not much money there, as around only 15% of fiction writers worldwide earn their living from writing alone. I got that figure from somewhere. Most of those writers, write romance novels under a pseudonym.

Very, very few can make serious money from fiction writing. Boo fucking hoo.

Like I said, I compartmentalise. I'm not married or have kids, but I have my responsibilities. My father needs his meds and he has never acted like he's entitled to my money. If he did, I'm no longer his son. He's cool, though, so I'm cool.

Whenever I write without the pressure of needing it to make money or to fill some space in some whatever, I feel good. I know there is space for it, and I am free to entertain as much I want.

Ask me to manage corporate social media, and I write without expecting any satisfaction from the act of writing itself. The satisfaction comes from something else - engagement, interaction, seeing things grow. It's different.

I can even play the volume game and was once even impressed with my own achievement of over half a million words a year.

But that artistic integrity shit, that buzz, the peace that comes with a piece, well-written, I will always find a place for that. I have let go of many things in order to preserve this, to reserve a spot for it. And by my calculations, it is merely 10 days away. If I don't get thrown to jail for smoking, of course.

And hence, the e-cigarette. I'm quitting smoking, amongst other things.