Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Intellectual Property

Greetings Friends,

It's official: I am in the midst of my first existential crisis as a paid writer. It only took less than a year. 

When I started my "career" at the age of 19, I swore I'd do anything for money. That involved falling for those help wanted bait ads in The New York Times, and getting passed around seedy employment agencies like a pack of Marlboros and a bottle of speed-rack vodka. I remember one employment "counselor" who refused to send me to a Wall St. firm to interview for a receptionist position because I was wearing patterned stockings. That was 1987, and working on Wall St. in any capacity (with the exception of broker) was akin to being a liveried footman at Buckingham Palace. Even the receptionists had to be decked out in Armani and look like they made a few hundred thou a year. 

When I finally did procure suitable employment (without the help of one of those scumbag used car salespeople - sorry, employment "counselors"), I began a very rocky relationship with Corporate America. I've written about it in drips and drabs, but I've never really unleashed my full fury on the subject. Remember how I said it's bad form to blog angry? I still believe that, but only when it applies to snoozing when you shouldn't be, or the inevitable airing of the dirty laundry associated with illicit affairs, or the sordid details of marriages/relationships gone bad. But, when you find yourself in a position where your intellect, intelligence and inherent good nature are being abused for the benefit of others, it's OK to get pissed off. The old saying, "It's better to get pissed off than pissed on" is wholly applicable to the subject at hand.

Since I no longer count beans or perform other tasks that involve debits, credits, profits, losses and monies in arrears, I view my work as the fruit of my intellect. Therefore, my work is literally my "intellectual" property. I don't actually create something tangible at this point. I hope there is the possibility of a book in my future, but I won't pine away for one. In the meantime, I just don't want to be thought of as a piece of machinery that churns out pithy copy at will. I am still a sentient, feeling human being, not a word machine. I know that might be hard to believe, but in the business of copy writing, it's not difficult to relate to an overheated laptop on the verge of a crash. You sometimes need to remind the individuals you write for that you are comprised of the same blood, guts, feelings and brain cells they are. Granted, you possess a talent they are paying you for, but that won't always stop them from cursing and kicking you as they would a jammed photocopier. You try your best to follow direction and give them what they want. Sometimes, they need to be reminded of the human condition, and that as a writer, you don't have all their copy stored up in the "storage pod" section of your brain. As far as I am aware, that part of the brain has not yet been proven to exist.

You have to engage the creative process in order for it to bear fruit. Some writers can manage this more quickly than others. That doesn't mean the slow group is any less talented; they're just not as fast as some. Think of it this way: if Danielle Steel can churn out 2 books a year to keep her fans happy, and oh, say, Michael Chabon can write one book like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay approximately once every decade, and keep his fans happy, that's what I'm talkin' about. That doesn't mean I expect my clients to wait ten years for me to write their copy, but you get my point, I hope. Writing is a process. Writing SEO copy and web content is a PROCESS. I deliberately used capital letters because the point I am trying to make is one that some may not have the vision to see. Writers are in the business of articulating their own visions, as well as the visions of others. The words may not always spew forth with the force of an erupting Icelandic volcano, but if you are patient, they will make themselves known. "Rome wasn't built in a day". "If you build it, he will come..."And finally, a quote from someone who is not well known, but wise nonetheless: "You have to step over the pebbles and rocks before you can climb the mountains".

OK, one more: "Don't think, Meat, just throw". Not entirely appropriate here, but a personal favourite of mine.


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