This Internet Life: Did the Internet Make You Obsolete?

One of the many things I follow on Facebook is John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.  This week’s video was about the fall of local journalism, which, frankly, has been long in the coming.  I worked in local newspapers in the late 90s and watched it all start to unravel in my little corner of this shitpile we call Earth.  It was a fucking travesty.  When a bustling newsroom goes from having 10 to 15 people on staff to a place filled with tumbleweeds and a skeleton staff that can barely handle the assignments that are absolutely necessary to generate the ad revenue vital to continue to publish a fraction of the pages the community once relied upon to better understand local government and happenin’s, that sinking ship is headed straight to Hell.

And that’s what this blog is about.  Because before I was old enough to have contemplated a second divorce, I was trying to figure out how to out swim a typhoon of obsolescence that was trying really fucking hard to suck me down with it.  But of course you lovely little fuckers know that’s not the end of my story, and it won’t be the end of yours if you’ll just fucking listen and use your head for something other than a coconut opener.

The Internet Made Me Obsolete And So Can You!

My whole life I wanted to be a journalist — a reporter on the ground.  I trained for it, I worked hard, I did my time, I got a real reporting job… and *poof* that stopped being a thing because Internet.  But it’s bittersweet because at the same time I love the possibilities that the Internet has brought, so I can’t completely hate it or blame it for wasting my entire life, you know?

Or can I?

Anyway, that’s not what this is about, not entirely.  it’s true that the Internet has sort of completely destroyed a number of professions that we, the pre-Millennials were preparing to enter as they were quickly eroding away under our feet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the end.  You don’t have to be a properly trained journalist working at fucking Kroger because “Woe is fucking me, Journalism is dead.”  You have options, even if you don’t realize it yet, you sad sorry fucking lump.  That’s what this is about.

The Internet changed everything, almost overnight.  Then smartphones came along and put the last nail in the coffin of what-used-ta-be and what-mighta-been, and it might seem like all that training and experience has gone right down the crapper, but you’re fucking wrong.  You’re not a one trick pony, there’s not a single answer to your problem, and the same vehicle that crashed your dreams can also salvage them — in a way.

There’s never going to be another newsroom that smells like old cigars and whiskey, or story meetings where half the staff show up more than three quarters boozed up, but there are lots of virtual outlets that need writers, researchers and tons and tons of jobs for journalists.  You just have to find them.  Isn’t that what you’re trained to do?  You’re a motherfucking bulldog, so go fucking dig!

Finding Use in Your Skill

Some skills, like journalism, have immediate application in magazine and website reporting, as well as working for online newspapers that aren’t completely upside down, but others are harder to put a face on in the digital age.  Like, for instance, something we used to do a fair amount at the small papers: page design.  If you don’t have a copy of Pagemaker circa 1998, you’re probably going to struggle to make this skill useful.  However, layout and design are still vital and people still look at pages much the same way they always did.

Instead of focusing on the written page, think of other areas where the skill would be useful.  How about email newsletters?  MailChimp is a program that’s easy to learn and would be incredibly applicable to your skillset.  You could work with a team designing infographics.  You could help design web pages.  There are many places this skill works, you just have to think a little harder with your gray matter.

Then there’s option number three, you lazy buggers.  You could learn some applicable shit.  I know, learning.  Ew.  Gross.  Fucking braining shit.  So awful.  You journos can become copywriters pretty easily if you can learn the art of the sale.  Not the sleazy car salesman garbage sale, but the true, fluid, honest sale; you designers can learn web programming or WordPress or some shit.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what you do, really.

So, in short, just because your job has become obsolete doesn’t mean that your skills are obsolete.  I know you don’t want to be reduced to a pile of skills and fuck knows I didn’t like it much at first, but this is the Gig Economy, fuckers.  Break yourself into bits and see what you’ve got to work with.

I bet you’ll find you fit in quite well somewhere in this digital wasteland.



NaNoWriMo: 4 Ways to Destroy the Doubting Man

There’s a little man in my head.  He tells me I can’t do things, that things aren’t going to work, he tells me I’m a hack and that people won’t understand and that no one cares and that the whole world is a giant toilet when I’m trying to do something productive.  He’s a shitty little guy, but he’s only about three inches tall, so at least he’s easy to take in hand to hand combat.

Oh, and he looks like a little green army man, one of the plastic ones.  I don’t know why.  I never asked.  But he’s a seriously huge asshole and sometimes, once in a while, I really want to set him on fire.  For example, he’s been causing me huge problems with a new undertaking, telling me how stupid it is and how stupid I am and how stupid this whole idea is.  He’s a cunty, cunty jerkface.

Meet Doubt, Destroyer of Souls

This little green fuckhead is, as far as I can tell, my doubt personified as a plastic soldier.  I’m sure you all have your demons.  Men in rabbit costumes or clowns hiding in drains… everybody’s got one (or more) of these monsters.  I can assure you all writers are plagued with them.  They tend to make an appearance when money gets tight or we’re starting a new venture or we try to cross genres.  These little fuckers wreak havoc with our lives, our jobs and try to eat our souls.

These are the kinds of teeth that can’t be defeated with mere platitudes.  In fact, if a platitude has ever helped you grapple your demons, you need to spend more time sinnin’.  I’m not going to tell you that you’re awesome or that you can do it.  I don’t fucking know you, maybe you can’t.  Maybe you really are awful.  I know some people who are truly frighteningly awful writers, but still keep on trying.

Forget Psychological Bullshit

I’ve been a writer since I can remember.  One of my earliest memories of school was being punished for writing a short book about my dog instead of doing the assigned lesson in second grade.  Fuck school.  Anyway, that was it.  That was the beginning, and even though I was not given a light sentence, it never stopped me.  The thrill of creation, of breathing a thing into being, was just too delicious.  It was a way to turn my own private movie theater into a world I could share with everyone else.

Oh, I know that you think I’m a fucking hack or a sell-out because I write copy most of the time, but two things.  First, go fuck yourself.  Second, even an aspiring writer has to eat.  Food is brain fuel.  Trust me, you’re not going to spin beautiful tales when you’re hungry, stressed, homeless and dying.  Been there, done that.  Don’t do that.

Forget all the advice Psychology Today has to offer.  They mean well, but their advice is meant for novices.  This is not hardcore advice for those of us who have been doing battle with those fucking monsters for decades.  This is real life, tried and true advice from a real writer who is still making a living putting words to the page.  You can’t get much more real than this, unless the advice you’re getting is from someone who fucking matters.  So, let’s begin.

  1. Put On Your Armor.  You’re a motherfucking warrior.  You’re not going into battle with this monster unplated, are you?  Read some of your old stuff, some of your really good stuff.  Look it over with the distance you’ve put between you and it — and appreciate what you do well.  If your work looks like shit, well, you need to go back to class and study up.
  2. Round Out Your Weak Points.  A friend told me that that little Green Bastard is sometimes worth listening to.  Although I doubt her, like I doubt him, there might be something to what she’s saying.  If your demon gives you specific feedback, like mine does, maybe it’s a good idea to take a step back and consider if they might be trying to protect you from something foul.  Show your problem piece to someone you trust and ask them to be honest and answer his taunts.  “Am I, in fact, Stupid, my friend?”
  3. Learn New Skills.  Two points here: First, you should always be honing your craft and learning new things.  If you think you’ve run out of things to learn, try to master a new writing style.  That’ll kick your ass back and forth and up and down until you’re ready to admit that other genres aren’t anything like yours.  Second, while you’re learning new stuff, make sure you learn how to fix those problems that the Little Green Army Man loves to point out when you’re feeling down.
  4. Stare Down the Competition.  When you’re really delusionally doubting, take a look at the competition.  Read other writers and see what you think — but be objective.  If you’ve been a writer for a while, reading others can be painful because you see their flaws sticking out like giant neon signs.  Look at those bad spots, because we’ve all got them.  Even Stephen King has written some real turds.  None of us are perfect all the time.

That’s it.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’m suiting up, I’m fighting my demons.  A storm is coming and it’s me riding a motherfucking dragon to war.  Are you ready to join the battle?