Those following me on Twitter may have noticed a series of barely cryptic tweets recently suggesting that I may soon be unemployed. Since I’m prone to the occasional, teensy-weensy bit of embellishment when speaking about my personal life (hangovers, vertical leap, the contours of my booty), I’ve decided to share the hard facts about the possible professional crossroads that are fast approaching.
It’s true. Once I finish updating a seminal work of guidebook genius entitled “Lonely Planet Romania,” I will have no (paying) work on deck. Some might argue that this is no different from what freelancers face at the end of any project, being that, even in stable economic times, we are all continuously and theoretically on the brink of professional and financial catastrophe. However, this time it’s a little different. Here’s why:
• In my five years of freelance writing, I have rarely had to go looking for work. It usually just comes rushing toward me. So, yes, I’m spoiled rotten.
• Even if I did normally go chasing for new work, I’ve been far too busy to do so lately. But not too busy to complain about it, naturally.
• I’d like to take a small break after doing these back-to-back LP guidebook projects (Tuscany & Romania), which, in addition to being much appreciated paying work, had the added benefit of being a seven month tutorial on how to most efficiently burn myself out. On that note, groupies will be happy to hear that the eight week stint of spaciness and severely diminished cognitive funtion, something I feared might be permanent brain damage, has finally broken and I’m feeling much better.
• In the past year, freelance travel writing for magazines has become cut-throat and, for the publications I used to contribute to, unprofitable.
Unless something really lucrative lands in my lap, you can bet your ass I’ll be taking that break. I may even let it draw out into an unapologetically long period of sloth, wine drinking and TV watching, with a possible jaunt or two to destinations ending in the word ‘beach’ or ‘springs’ or ‘-apulco’. Nevertheless, in more somber moments, I wonder about future employment.
For several weeks I have been idly entertaining a number of job options. Of course I’d like to stick with writing, preferably travel writing, preferably travel writing about the adventures that I have while on location shooting my new travel TV show, seeing as how all the news ones coming out are so god-awful and the old ones are obviously losing their edge and have I mentioned the contours of my booty? While engaged in this new job daydreaming, I have not been picky. In fact, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time considering jobs that, at first glance, would seem like a bewildering choice. Here’s a partial list:
• Starbuck’s barista – I hear they get benefits at 30 hours per week. True?
• Wine bar bartender – Turns out this is waaaay more work than I had fantasized. Apparently, you’re expected to do more than sit behind the bar, flirt with girls and pour a glass of wine once every 15 minutes.
• Break the world record for not leaving the Minneapolis Skyway – The upshot is that this would be a great Minnesota winter distraction, though there’s too many unknowns. Does anyone even know what the record is? Can I live off the sponsorship? Will I go crazy? Will I have any friends left by Month 2?
• Professional blogger – In addition to this blog and (now abandoned) This Is Why I Love Minneapolis blog and my Romania and Moldova travel guide site, I have somehow convinced myself that I can start and maintain blogs about promoting Atheist Rights and an aggregator (with snarky comments) exposing the hypocrites, liars and dumbasses in politics. Kind of like the Daily Show, but more timely and with fewer visits from starlets in flimsy dresses. I estimate that all of this will require about 156 hours of work per week and net me about $200-250 a month. So that’s a definite ‘maybe’.
As my long suffering parents will attest, I somehow tend to gravitate toward goals and career paths that inevitably prove to be more far-fetched and less lucrative than the one I’m currently abandoning (juggling, acting, radio DJ, homeless travel writer). And this time is no different. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think I’m going to make a run at being a – wait for it – Travel Stand-Up Comedian.
I could totally do this. In fact, I more or less involuntarily do this all day long. The thing is, being a Travel Stand-Up Comedian in a country where only 20% of the people have passports (and most of them just have them so they can get to Cabo every winter or zip over into Canada to buy their meds at reasonable prices) might be a little too obscure for most audiences.
But perhaps it’s all in the delivery. I had to dump a five minute build-up of dope observations and clever digressions on the Crusades, the Pope and St Francis when I realized that most of it would zing right over the heads of all but maybe two people in the audience. So, the set-ups for Travel Stand-Up Comedian jokes would be critical. Or perhaps I should just keep it basic and low brow.
It’s a subject that nearly everyone in the audience has experienced in the first person and there’s a random reference to a repugnant act tossed in. I hate to give away the hard-won secrets of Travel Stand-Up Comedy so freely, but those two elements are pretty much all you need.
Thusly inspired, I wrote this joke during an insomnia jag last week (imagine delivery in a smooth, conversational tone):
… and if Jesus doesn’t like it he can suck it.
Moving on, have you noticed lately how nearly every animal is coming out with its own potentially fatal disease? Everyone’s worried about terrorist attacks ending the world, meanwhile every year barn yard animals come one step closer to wiping us out with plague and pestilence.
First there was cows with their Hoof and Mouth and Mad Cow Disease. Then they had to slaughter millions of birds to stop the Avian Flu. The pigs actually scored pandemic points with the Swine Flu. Now it’s the donkeys. Yeah, seriously. They’ve just discovered that donkeys are carrying fatal bacteria that infects humans via their saliva. They’re calling it ‘Ass to Mouth’.
[pause for standing ovation and assistants to collect thrown bouquets of flowers]
So that’s another “maybe.”
Since Killing Batteries has always been about depicting the harsh realities of freelance travel writing (and shameless self-promotion and what’s annoying me today and why aren’t I worshiped like a professional sports player?), I will stay true to the spirit of the blog and continue to update you on my tenuous employment status during these times of economic uncertainty.
Meanwhile, yes, I am accepting any and all offers that pay a living wage and, ideally, lavish me with attention. I’ll even consider working in an office, assuming I can do so while wearing no shoes or shirt. You gotta meet me half way.
From another under-employed travel writer, you speak to me Leif – and made me laugh at loud several times about our predicament which is more than most people can do. You should totally go stand up.
Gigolo. You don’t have to wear socks (well, depending on the client) and the shirt is just another accessory. Don’t tell me you don’t have the morals for it! Think of it as street performing inside, for a small audience.
Plus yuor Monday nights would probably be free.
Stand up travel comedian on a hostel bar circuit? It’s all about the finding the venues with the right audience. ;-)
The internet has killed our trade. Too many amateurs prepared to work pour la gloire, and too many publishers are now happy to rip crappy content from Wikipedia, Wikitravel etc.
As for current standards of travel writing, compare this piece of cliche-ridden fluff on Bucharest published in the NYT last weekend: http://bit.ly/9288m (yes, he really does use the phrase ‘arty types wearing Converse All-Stars’) with this brilliant piece of travel writing, published in 1988: http://bit.ly/jpWH5
You could teach writing, with the amount of US colleges and that overlook credentials (not that you aren’t qualified, heh).
Here’s 3 good reasons why:
1) You could show up sans shoes or long pants. The kids will think you’re eccentric and rad.
2) The student body pay tuition fees, therefore forced to listen to you describe the contours of your body. Captive audience.
3) Drinking + writing prof = tortured Hemingway. The ladies eat it up.
Craig – thanks for that link to the 1988 article. Wow. Makes my complaints from 2004 sound almost quaint. Though one time I got to see a van screech to a halt and several hooded security guys spill out to grab a gangster off the street right in front of my building.
IG – Teaching: ah yes, my chance to mold fertile, opens minds into producing insightful, evocative text – about donkeys.
“in a country where only 20% of the people have passports”
ok. true. but there are many, many more armchair travel lovers to entertain. there are still alot of folks in the US who would like to travel but can’t because of finances, family obligations, low self esteem. and there are folks who will never travel but love to read or watch or hear about traveling. kind of like watching professional football but being a fat slob. your audience is big! really it is. good luck!
Sounds like it could be a Fringe show.
I think writers of all genres are asking the same questions and going through the same consternations, albeit with probably less imaginative alternative career schemes.
I have spent the last year, or so, blogging (or, “providing content to a multimedia travel humor website”, as I tell my wife) while watching my wannabe writing aspiration publications morph from self-published books to thinly-veiled commercial magazine pieces to an obsession with Facebook updating to barely cryptic Twitter tweets.
I think you picked a noble vocation caught in a downward counterclockwise spiral (clockwise south of the equator).
You are one of THE most enjoyable writers on the internet. Unfortunately, constant kudos don’t pay the rent or for bottles of Stongbow.
Hahahaha! Right on!
You missed the obvious answer: seasonal salmon slaughtering in Alaska. What? It’s normal.