If I had to list all of the questions I get asked as a self-employed writer:
How do you make it work?
How do you find work?
Why do you publish your writing online?
The answers to the first two, I think, have been answered quite comprehensively in this blog, and can be summed up with two words: luck and determination. However, I believe that the answer to the last question is directly linked to the above two, and that publishing your work online is the only way forward in this day and age, and will make finding work, and thus making a writing career work for you, much easier.
I publish my work online because it increases the amount of work I get. It’s really that simple. The more work I have published online, the more people read it. The more people read it, the more people want me to write something for them. The days of with-holding material and worrying about copyright are obsolete. Am I worried someone will perform one of my pieces, and pass it off as their own? Or even if they don’t pass it off as their own, not give me the credit I deserve? Or financial recompense? Not really. To be expecting any of that is more than a little big-headed. If someone is inspired by my humble work, and decides to read it, let alone perform it, I’m honoured someone has done me that service, and that I have been able to inspire them. If something is confidential, or I think it’s worth keeping for later projects, I don’t publish it, but everything else either goes straight up, or will be going up soon.
Some people find this hard to grasp, and I don’t blame them. There is still a lingering belief that whatever someone writes is theirs, and theirs alone, and thus shouldn’t be seen for free, nor should someone have the ability to take it. The new Internet Copyright Bill is indeed trying to uphold these standards, but how is that possible in a generation that has Youtube? Cutting out all of the illegal stuff, who hasn’t listened to a band on MySpace? Watched someone’s Youtube videos? This is the marketing of the future: making it all free and available to all. The trick comes in making people want more.
Some famous comedians, Dan Antopolski among them, have recently been bellyaching about this trend, and how their material becomes hackneyed and sterile within one or two shows, as the joke is uploaded to Youtube, Facebook, and various iPhone applications within hours, and soon the whole world knows it. Admittedly, it has become harder to work as a comedian: your material is passed around very quickly, and the pressure to write more day-in-day-out has gotten higher, but this shouldn’t be resisted and belly-ached against. This kind of new marketing is what’s making some of these new, big names so famous, and the fact that Antopolski’s Funniest Joke of the Fringe was common knowledge within hours of him having the award presented to him just shows his popularity. For more info on this, Maggie Brown’s column in The Stage last week (last week of Nov 09) covers this topic from the comedian’s perspective.
So, there’s the rub: you can’t be precious about your material any more. The idea of writing in an ivory tower is obsolete, as is not getting your material to as many eyes as possible. Just to give you an idea: publishing my material online has already helped arrange 4 jobs for me to date, some of them very well paying… If you’re a writer, don’t hesitate, publish your work now. It will pay off in spades. Put yourself out there!