November 8, 2017

My Life As Professional Hack..I Mean, Writer


All I have to say is that....well, right now I'm putting the "work" into "Working Class Creative."

My primary source of income (when I'm not seeking social media work as a freelance consultant) is doing contract writing for an agency. (I'm going to rather, seriously, stop giggling...because the contract outlines certain things I can and cannot discuss). As part of my day, I am regularly producing both web page and blog content focused on one specific industry...and it's an industry you normally wouldn't associate me with, but it's one that I have expertise in handling.

You would think that a New Pulp author like me would have no problem cranking out text...after all, I've spent five years blogging for Chicago Now, and I'm flexing my writing muscles enough to rebuild this blog. My writing portfolio has some really impressive entries.  I've also started on two passion projects (one has a contract, but it's a really sweet contract). I've even been running a Chicago Coworking Meetup and Freelancers Union group so that I have more opportunities to network while performing basic copy writing for a field that I may not love....but I sure as hell like a lot.

1970s-style typewriter But I'm finding myself fighting off the inner voice that says, "You're not a writer, Gordon, you're a hack."

Now I don't mean "hack" in terms of my fiction - after all, I just finished my first novel as well as another novella. Cranking out almost 70,000 words of prose in just under six months is a pretty significant achievement. But writing working text - nothing emotionally engaging, or telling a fictional story - should not feel as annoying as it does. It doesn't hurt me (and hasn't stopped me from attempting to find other paid work), but it does feel a

Part of it is being contracted to an agency with all of the unique challenges. Like handling the pervasive "dude bro" attitude and the resulting self-descriptions of people being "rock stars" and "ninjas." Nitpicking grammar and punctuation mistakes while staff makes huge errors. (Example - a recent e-mail had wrong due dates and batch numbers, and I sent a heads-up. Follow up included proper batch numbers, but erroneous due dates. Go figure). And unusual feedback such as being admonished for "plagiarizing myself."

(No, that isn't a euphemism, that's actually what I was told: I was "excessively plagiarizing myself.")

But perhaps my own self-criticism comes from knowing that I can - and have - been creative in my writing, and this seems like work. My short novella (which is coming very soon, trust me) integrates a ton of influences, including action/adventure, my background in Rogers Park, and issues via a prevalent Twitter hashtag (with the result that several friends could claim co-authorship of this piece...and I have no problem giving it to them).

Make no mistake - I would love the chance to write and create for a living. I have no illusions about needing to "pay my dues" and understand that part of the process is sitting in front of the keyboard and getting down to business. But I sometimes wonder whether I am giving myself the freedom to move forward...or am I "settling" for sublimating my creative urges and letting my professional concerns run rampant.

In other words, am I a writer or am I a hack? And is either one a bad thing?

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