Lois: Kill, or be Killed.
Clark: Lois, you’re talking about war. This is journalism.
Lois: See, your problem is that you think there’s a difference.
From Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – Season 1, Episode 12
As regular readers of this blog might know, I am an ardent Superman fan. I love the man of style in all his incarnations, and Lois Lane too (although, admittedly, I was slightly disappointed by Kate Bosworth playing my idol) – I even have Lois Lane magnets on my fridge (way too much information, maybe?).
Anyway, I tend to watch and re-watch episodes from my favourite series depicting the two from time to time, and I recently couldn’t stop laughing at this particular conversation between Lane and Kent in the newsroom. Those of you familiar with the series would no doubt be aware that Teri Hatcher’s depiction of Lois is not hilarious if not oddly confronting – the woman gets herself into situations and out of them by the sheeer stupidity of pursuing a story before she even thinks her plan through. Then again, the baddies might not be the same in the real world, but I am always struck by her competitiveness, even at the cost of being alienated by her colleagues.
It makes me wonder about the competition that others ask me about when it comes to writing freelance. Magazines might be competing for sales on the stands, but are freelancers competing for work? I tend to think that most of the competition in the industry is healthy – along the lines of ‘I can’t believe you nabbed a by-line on Marie-Claire, that’s awesome, I wish I could do that’ as opposed to ‘How the Fuck did she achieve that, I am jealous’. Well, at least for me anyway.
I happened to learn by example from one of my favourite writers and mentors, Rachel Hills, who was always been fairly altruistic when it comes to freelance writing. These days, writing is her sole way of making a living and she’s doing amazingly well for herself.
For the first time in my freelancing life, things are kind of quiet. I am not having a lot of success pitching to the magazines I normally write for, sometimes because my pitches are not right for the direction a new editor wants to take the magazine in; sometimes because they’re too similar in topic (ie, social networking) to a previous story, even if they are nothing alike in content and subject matter; and sometimes because the sources need to be presented in a particular light and the sources themselves choose not to go that way (for example, a potential story on cheating recently fell through because the magazine insisted the cheater be named and photographed).
As much as my quiet freelance life pains me (I derive a lot of my pleasure and self-esteem from seeing my name in print, even if that is odd, wrong and any other negative way you can describe it), I love the fact that I am also writing a book, which prevents me from wallowing in despair in a foetal position on the floor of my study. I am not launching scathing attacks (even inside my head) on other freelancers’ success or trying to beat everyone I know to the success punch.
In war, you’re competing for territory, prizes or whatever. In freelance journalism, the territory is the small number of pages allocated to freelance writers or money that they could potentially earn from those pages depending on the alloted freelance budget. But in addition to the work I have tried to do via this blog, I see tweets of advice and links to opportunities, freelance writers sharing tips and tricks with their fellow freelancers, and writer’s clubs springing up left, right and centre.
I’m glad for that. It is the calm in the freelancing, print-is-dying, post GFC war.