Tuesday, September 26, 2017

No opinion

For over a decade of my life, maybe longer, I had opinions. So many opinions! Why? I have no idea. But I did. Whichever (entirely sensible) reticence stops most from holding forth in print on various topics their views may change on in a week's time, I lacked. I had an op-ed column in the college paper. I blogged (and wrote some articles) during grad school. After that, I wrote more articles; guest-blogged while at the Dish; had various regular but technically freelance gigs; and... the book. An entire book, published by a major publishing house, filled with my opinions! Something I still can't believe I had the opportunity to do.

For the past few weeks, I have been - to put it very mildly - busy with work. Work that has zilch to do with my opinions on privilege; on Chait's latest piece, Trump's latest outrage; cultural appropriation; intrafeminist debates, "Becky"; or problematicness. OK, near-zilch - one course I'm teaching involves some discussion of contemporary-ish opinion articles, but on French Jewry, which is not really at the heart of takesville. And I've been doing some book-stuff here and there. Mostly, though,  I'm teaching and doing admin work for French language classes. The pace of this work, while intense, is likely to slow up a bit once further into the semester, meaning I will again be able to opine. Able as in, with a bit of free time and energy that could go to that. But will it?

I can't decide if my profound indifference, at least at 10:17pm, after teaching two classes almost back-to-back, one ending at 8pm, is simply a matter of being tired; whether it points to some ominous disinterest in the things that used to give me pleasure; or whether it's a sign that I'm ready to move on to the next thing, writing-wise. And I think it's mostly the third.

As for what the next thing writing-wise will be, the whole tired thing means my notions are, for the moment, somewhat vague. More literary (fiction; I can appreciate, but not produce, poetry), less take-ish.

It's been freeing, in this odd way, to realize how not-remunerative even professional, full-time ( if patched-together) opinion-writing, except I guess at the very top (which I can safely now say having a book out with a major publisher, and clips in major publications, is not), tends to be. Payments are too low, too late, to be anything but supplements to a day job. Editorial and columnist positions that sound great and are indeed a lot of fun are - sometimes, not always, but more than one might imagine - freelance, precarious and without benefits.

And that's when everything is going as promised. If I were to speak openly about every entity, every individual, that either didn't come through with payment or required months of prodding to do so, or that caught me at just the right moment and persuaded me to do extensive unpaid labor, I'd burn... not my most important professional writing-related bridges, thank goodness, but... still quite a few of the somewhat-important ones? But what would even be the point, when the culprit likely isn't the individual editor, or even (necessarily) the specific publication, but the industry as a whole? Because on some level, the assumption is that writing - the fun sort of writing - isn't anyone's means of self-support. Thus the non-absurdity, in this context, of demands for revision of work you have done for free.

If I start from the assumption that none of this pays, not really, I can save the opinions for... where I actually, urgently, have an opinion about something. For things like... the book. Or, more recently, this article. And I can also write other things! Things not tied to the news cycle! At least, this is the hope.

1 comment:

Ponder Stibbons said...

Pretty much why I decided not to pursue popular science writing as a way to escape academia. Had had enough of scrambling for money.