2/9/09

Of Fame and the Internet

Once upon a time, the popular tag line was "I wanna be in Hollywood." Everyone wanted to be in pictures. Everyone wanted to be in television, or music. Everyone wanted to be famous. Everyone wanted to "be somebody."

Of course, the appeal of such an existence has declined as we see more and more documentaries of burnt out Hollywood legends. Music stars overdose. Movie stars lose their appeal. Child stars grow out of their appeal without having learned basic survival skills. Hollywood turns out not only to be work, but to be work with very low job security. Hollywood loses it's appeal.

As time has gone on, the mediums themselves have lost appeal. Movies, television, music, all seem to be play-by-numbers minimum risk trash, with rare exceptions. People are so far removed from their entertainment, and entertainers so far removed from their populace, that it's simply no longer entertainment. It has become nothing more than going through the motions of being what society expects from mainstream entertainment.

And then there is the Internet. We live in strange times. We have this form of mass communication that is completely open to public domain. Anyone with Internet access and free time can throw up a website, get a Youtube account, start a blog, and generally put themselves on the Internet. Censorship is nearly nonexistent. If you don't like something, you go away, oftentimes to start your own forum or blog to complain about whatever you just left. Information and entertainment by the people for the people is here, and it is good.

Mainstream media is having a hard time wrapping their head around this "Internet" thing. At first this was not a priority for them. The Internet was nothing to be taken seriously, no more so than public access television. The Internet had accessibility, but in mainstream media lied the money, the power, the control, and the public's adoration.

One of the funny things about the Internet is that it let people see all possible options. If your local store was gouging prices on a good because it is the only store that sold it, you could go online and order it at a more reasonable price. The same principle began to apply to entertainment. While mainstream entertainment has us wade through commercial after commercial and/or pay outright for canned, freeze dried "entertainment," on the Internet people were putting out shows, music, comics, and news programs that people actually wanted to watch, and rarely did they ask more than a watcher buy a shirt or maybe consider sending a donation. This was not a demand, simply a request. Mainstream media didn't stand a chance.

We now live in a very transitional phase in our culture in regards to communication. Traditional values tend to balk at the Internet, for it's lack of censorship or respect for tradition. Businessmen who are losing money to their electronic counterparts are trying to evolve to fit this new business model. Entertainment, more so than most, is trying to figure out how to wrap their minds around this new concept, this series of tubes spreading picture, sound, word, and idea without limit.

When I first took an interest in writing as a career, I did so thinking in terms of print. The Internet existed, but it was new, and no one made money on the Internet. Print had been around forever, and it would continue to be around forever.

Right?

Now I find that I might be the very generation that sees the death of print news media. There is simply very little advantage to it anymore. Online publications have no print cost, can distribute at no cost, and still make money using in-site advertising. Print publications are tightening their metaphorical belts, trying to fight the information technology age.

The rules are changing. The problem is we are still writing the new rulebook.

Most people in places of wealth, fame, or success on the Internet will readily admit that to some extent they stumbled into it. Penny Arcade (www.penny-arcade.com) was started as a recreational project, that has culminated in it's authors having enough wealth to start their own gaming expo and charity. Google was originally a simple class project, now it is the foremost used search engine on the Internet.

So, how, in this terrain, does one become a successful writer. That is my challenge.

This blog is my first conscious step towards that end, I suppose. I've written on the Internet in various forms before, but I've never taken it seriously, and one could probably count their hands how many people have actually seen my writing, which has ranged from middle school attempts at poetry to amature video game reviews for games everyone already knows about. I generally gave up rather easily, partially because the success of these pet projects were of no dire consequence, and partially because I got a very distance feeling that while I was writing, no one was reading.

This project of mine is different, but not because I expect to have any sort of readership. This time, the purpose is self improvement. After high school, I wrote much less as real life encroached on my free time. It's the same old song many who claim to have had creative talent in high school sing. It is easy to be creative when nothing is riding on it. When you have to pay bills and rent and put food on your table, things become serious and priorities change. You give up on what you want to do and do what you have to do.

That is very much what I am doing right now, doing what I have to. I'm working an assistant management position at a food service job, and going to college to attain my "dream job" as a writer.

I hate that term, though. "Dream job" makes it sound so ephemeral. What I want is not something that has never been accomplished. It's just a path without guaranteed success. The demand for jobs is higher than the supply, and the job market as a whole is bad right now. So why do I take this route?

Because, frankly, I'm not good at much else. While I'm sure with proper education and training I could be passable at many professions, I would never be happy with them. I'm not simply talking about minimum wage jobs, either. Anyone, with the right training, can be a nurse, a secretary, or an office wage slave. Most people can teach, even if they couldn't make a living at what they are teaching. But I know myself. I take such a job, and I get better at it for a while. Then, I start to not care. I wish I was doing something else. I start not to care. I burn out. My productivity drops. I get reprimanded. I care less. I either lose my job or get shoved into a corner where I won't break anything. I find a new job and repeat the cycle.

Not that this has happened (much). I've only worked two jobs in my lifetime. This is simply a prediction based on what I know about myself.

So the question must be asked, for credibility's sake, why would writing be any different. Wouldn't I just burn out and stop doing it, too? The difference is that writing is the one thing that I can do for money that I do for free. This is not to say that I will work for free, mind you, but this blog is a good example. Though this is currently more or less just a personal dump space, it also serves as a practice ground. I write here, and intend on posting every Tuesday, without fail. After all, just because I'm not getting paid doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to keep deadlines.

Hopefully one day I will be writing on more meaningful subject manner. Hopefully I will get paid for it. For the time being, I will simply write.

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