Hunter S. Thompson saw the writing on the wall, and perhaps it was no coincidence his death (well, suicide) coincided with the global advent of the Facebook wall.
Being a doctor of journalism in today’s media world can drain any writer of his resolve, what with cat videos, TMZ and World Star Hip-Hop claiming a primary stake in the realm.
Would any of the masters (Hunter, Hemingway, Kafka, Shakespeare, etc.) embrace the blogosphere and social media? Can anyone envision old Hem tweeting out release hype for The Sun Also Rises?
While many people still prefer tangible reading material—books are viable and some magazines and newspapers have found a way to stay in print—the majority of what we read on a daily basis is consumed digitally. Writers can still make money by publishing books but traditional journalists continue to struggle to make a living.
The goal for most writers (authors, journalists, scribes, etc.) is to publish a book—and the options for self-publishing are better now than ever—but staying afloat in the writing racket while working on or shopping a book can be rather treacherous.
Today’s journalist must also be a savvy photographer (and photoshopper), proficient at SEO and probably has more revenue streams if he/she also knows at least basic code and digital marketing best practices.
A writer’s skill set can be limited, so job options boil down to staying dynamic, learning new skills or finding a new line of work to pay the bills.
Writers can be a surly bunch when forced to work more honest gigs.
The visual realm dominates the digital landscape, so any writer with A/V skills has a leg up on the competition. The text portion of digital content is grossly secondary, perhaps becoming obsolete to some degree.
A snappy, click-baiting headline seems to trump a well-constructed piece and proper grammar and spelling take a backseat to the immediacy by which a story can reach the end user.
All of this said, what is the point of fighting it all?
Resistance is not just futile but soul-sapping as well. So the written word has been trivialized by the proliferation of YouTube, Instagram and innumerable blogs. Every once in awhile if you simply embrace that which you ostensibly loathe, you can make your (writing) life a little bit more tolerable.
There is cool shit out there and while it saddens us to find that alternative weeklies like the Philadelphia City Paper have been reduced to thin leaflets, we have to admit things like Snoop Dogg’s YouTube channel (westfesttv) can be damn entertaining.
Writing for a living has always been a demanding career choice. Here’s a quick, albeit grim, reminder. This is especially true in an era where younger writers of the tech-savvy generation are routinely preferred to long-form fossils for paid writing gigs.
Advice to older writers trying to make their way: Have a sense of humor and don’t get discouraged by your “reach” (or lack thereof) on social media. You are serious about your craft but you will have to adapt to the demands of the visual aspect of the digital marketplace.
Take a photography class, learn photoshop or get a programming tutorial from someone in the under-25 crowd.
Try to include some sort of rich media within your pieces since attention spans have been reduced to alarmingly low levels in the digital age.
Look, how pretty.
Follow these rules and you might be able to pay your bills or land a decent gig somewhere.
If not, there are always other options. Take it away Judge Smails: