‘Fretful little bureaucratic douche bags’

Freelance writing is all hell. When I left Maui Time Weekly in early June after five years as editor, I figured my days of chasing and kicking people were long gone. “I’m just a writer now,” I told more than one friend. “It’s going to be easy now because I just get to deal with professional editors.”

Um, no. In many ways, I’m dealing with more unprofessional people now than in my days when perpetually cash-strapped Maui Time gave me an editorial budget that pretty much limited me to working with just rookie and student reporters. In fact, to list all the instances in the last six months of my having to deal with unreturned phone calls and e-mails, to say nothing of accepted-then-suddenly-rejected stories, would require more space than even this blog affords.
Originally I thought my problems were specific to Hawaii. They are most certainly not. Take this quote from genius author James Howard Kunstler, interviewed in Curtis White’s 2007 book The Spirit of Disobedience:
“I had been writing some stories for the New York Times Magazine about land development in American and the problems it entailed. After three or four of them, I pitched a story with the working title “Why Is America So Fucking Ugly?” and they gave me the green light to write it up. Once I did, they rejected it. The Times Magazine always rejected anything with either wit or an interesting point of view–and if you happened to slip one in on them, the editorial board always found a way to extract every single joke from the piece. I hated those cocksuckers. They were like a literary politburo. Smug, supercilious, fretful little bureaucratic douche bags. They didn’t have enough soul to be actuaries. And even if you made it through the grueling editorial wringer and got your story–with all the heart and soul wrung out of it–into print, then they’d jerk you off for months about cutting a paycheck. I wanted to go down to 43rd Street with a fungo bat and beat their fucking heads in. But instead I took that rejected manuscript about “Why Is America So Fucking Ugly?” and turned it into a book proposal, which my agent wound up selling to one of the more high-toned imprints of Simon & Schuster. That was published as The Geography of Nowhere.”
To any of my former writers who chafed under my editing and are reading this now: you have no idea how good you had it.
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3 thoughts on “‘Fretful little bureaucratic douche bags’

  1. dude – I really think yer just having some “dark night of the soul”-thing. It IS December for chrissakes..What it is, is that – those hedgehogs making decisions concerning your exceptional writing are personifications of Ahriman: darkness and no shred of artful living is their norm. And guess what? The douche-bag arbiters of taste are big on tripe ’cause that’s what they have been feeding on. Writing (or any other number of human pursuits) is much more manageable if it can be pushed out and contained, and replenished, like Cheez-Wiz. (I ain’t knockin’ fans of processed cheese or tripe, if that’s what they like.)But here’s the good part: While this structure keeps unfolding, in rather inhumane ways – and as much as humans are expected to act as dead as automatons in this gig – people expressing in ways inherently resonant with humans will find their audience. Look at me (sorry if I go solipsistic), I’ve just recently even ever heard of you. (I’ve sort of been in the forest building rent-free homesteading digs) Nevertheless, your friggen’ bookmarks alone have pointed me to some edifying places. So run to the light! And keep writing (although god forbid that darkness as good material go away)ps-I’m a bit unclear on the rent/food-thing myself. But ability to express honestly, maybe even prescient, is worthwhile and I appreciate your efforts.

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  2. Oh, AP–how I do miss you! But then, I always knew I had it good back in the day with you at Maui Time…;-)Freelance sucks over here in the Bay Area, as well. It’s an incredibly challenging pursuit that appears to take a fuckload of persistence, in addition to connections; the ability to determine what the next big thing is before the 50 million other writer schlebs here get to it first; local and national relevance but not so much that it’s actually been written about TOO much; patience; hunger (to get the story) without appearing hungry (implies desperation, which is so very uncool); and, oh, writing ability is nice but you will be ridiculed, tortured and forgotten either way.And yet, it’s still the best goddamn gig for intellectually sadomasochistic introverts like us, isn’t it?Yeah…

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