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Big consumer of writing here.

You should include libraries in this discussion. Many consumers of writing access writing through libraries and don't leave a digital footprint.

Getting reviewed in places you may not think about like Booklist or Choice. Pay attention to what librarians do. We read a lot of books and notice books not MSM famous. I served on the Notable Books jury for several years. Most libraries buy the books--few reviewed in the fancy places. https://rusaupdate.org/awards/notable-books-list/

I'd like to see the Public Library Lending Right in the US. The Authors Guild is trying: https://www.authorsguild.org/who-we-are/letter-president/letter-from-the-president-winter-2018-spring-2019-plr/

I wish every famous person would not write children's books. Libraries have to buy them because there is demand, but they are usually dreadful. I wish actors wouldn't voice audiobooks.

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I have written three published novels and have never made money at it. I deliver packages for Amazon and have a spouse with a real job. That's the reality of writing- you are using leisure time to produce entertainment instead of consuming it. I'm far too old and don't have the right identity and education to make it as a hot new writer. That's fine. I'll write anyway because that's what I do. I've been writing novels since high school. I'll keep doing it whatever happens. It's not contingent on money.

I don't feel like the world owes me a living as a writer. There's making a living, and there's doing what I want to do. They aren't the same thing, and deBoer makes a convincing case that it isn't worth selling your soul.

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Freddie, you have really outdone yourself in describing our current media malaise and offering a prescription for individual writers to counter it.

A lot of what you suggest is commerce, something familiar to many people in the business world who were never humanities graduates. I started a manufacturing business about 17 years ago, and I knew I had no chance of success unless my product was either a) cheaper than the competition or b) better than (different from) the competition. This is Commerce 101. Today in America, most businesses attempt to be cheaper, and if they can't be cheaper they don't bother competing. I always thought that was a mug's game. Not only is being cheaper not much fun (and if it's not fun why the hell are you doing it?), but there will always, ALWAYS, be someone who will come along and do it cheaper than you can. So I opted to be better, and in being better I was different enough (and more expensive) that it took several years before I could consider my project a success. And it's still a success. I would have crashed and burned long ago if I simply tried to be cheaper.

Your specific suggestions about how to, essentially, get employment in media sound a little like a procedure for finding a job I have advocated for decades. Whenever I was out of work, I would go door-to-door in business parks, poking my head in and asking for a job, and when they chased me out I would go next door, etc. Within three days I always got a job. I have suggested this to many people (including an ex-wife) and almost all of them (including the ex-wife) insisted it can't be done, that no longer works, I'm living in the past, I'm full of shit. But next month my longest serving employee is leaving the company after 13 years to run her own business, and she came to us in precisely this way. And today I am sending an offer letter to a young executive who sent us an unsolicited job inquiry. It does work. It's a numbers game: the more doors you knock on, the sooner one of them will open.

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Freddie's criticism of the trust-funders seems a little unfair. Writing is not a well-paid profession (especially nowadays) and a large share of it is always going to be done by people who do it for the love of it. The appropriate advice to give to those people isn't "Stop writing" or even "Insist on being paid more than the current market will bear". It's "Since you don't really need the wretched income offered by writing in a conformist way, try saying what you really think."

The rich kids are really the target audience for this post, in fact.

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Glad you wrote more about this, it's spot-on. The whole anti-Substack kerfluffle really highlighted how a superficial identity trait is not the same as a talent or insight, and how eager the most disordered struggling writers are to blame their lack of talent or insight on a lack of interest in their identity -- right as their identity is as in demand as it will ever be, no less! The most surreal thing is they get mad when talented, insightful people with their same superficial identity trait have a successful platform, and they're able to discern that it's because of the different ideas they express... but they somehow can't look in the mirror and realize that must mean it's nothing to do with their identity at all, but the simple fact that few people value what they have to say because it has no value. They can't admit to themselves that all they have to offer is ideas that are stupid, weird, mean, corrosive, pointless, and non-representative, and that their only personality traits are being aggrieved and smarmy.

I stopped and laughed for a full minute at this: "Writers are either getting funded by the ghost of Ronald Reagan or else they’re constantly tweeting about decolonizing Chucky Cheese or whatever." I finally deleted Twitter last year because it felt like left-leaning media was just hiring people who huff paint and free associate any postmodern-adjacent concept with whatever is in their literal field of vision. In the beginning (over five years ago?) I thought some of the humor mixing high-brow social justice ideas and pop culture was self-effacing and funny, but then it got driven into the ground in five minutes and it was no longer clear who, if anyone, was still joking or had ever been. I didn't like watching that happen to public people who used to be at least a little serious, and I didn't like how it warped my mind trying to make excuses for what deeper truth they were allegedly getting at. It got tiresome to constantly strain to find the lens through which it could be forgivable they were peddling in prejudice and stereotypes to say something unhinged, and it felt increasingly patronizing of me. It's just too much fucking work to read it -- "emotional labor," even.

Nowadays I just tell myself they're going through something and scroll past, because I really do hope they snap out of it one day. But when they openly wail about how insightful people are doing better than them and launch hysterical campaigns against them, I just want to shake them.

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I’ve had my own website for the past 8 years. It’s a food photography, writing and recipe development site. Things have changed because of Facebook and Instagram grabbing up all the traffic, when Google stopped Google Reader it was a sad day and I saw people stop coming by or commenting on my site. At the risk of being accused of spamming my site is pixelsandcrumbs.com

I’m a lone voice in the Interverse. I’m out here. Unknown, writing, creating, sharing. You seem focused on particular writers, but we’re all here to share our thoughts, ideas and designs. Man, I wish bloggers and independent voices would get more attention, but it’s hard these days. Social media has taken over and maybe, maybe! Someday bloggers will have their chance again.

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I am very interested in the type of data scientist with real data science skills who's unable to make money.

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Mar 30, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

Robert Heinlein famously made a distinction between writing and what he called "honest work."

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This piece is good but I think the real question is 'how big is the market for heterodox thought'? I don't doubt that for a given writer trying to pay their rent in the year 2021 this advice is correct. The fact that Vice, Slate and Teen Vogue have merged into the same website does provide a new opportunity to cater to the audience that doesn't want that website. But 'people who desperately want to read an alternative and will even pay for the privilege' feels like a niche audience to me. It's a niche that you're very well positioned to take advantage of, but still a niche.

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Loved this. I enjoy writing; I have for almost thirty years. I just have acknowledged it'll never be more than a hobby for me, which is fine. But I do agree with you that if you keep doing what everyone else is doing...why are you not surprised you're not going anywhere? I guess the difference might be people don't always recognize they're falling in line. They feel like they're "sticking it to the man," being "revolutionary," when really their arguments are milquetoast at best, which is why these big corporations and publications have no problem publishing them. They aren't actually challenging the status quo. (But they'll release PR statements to give you the impression they're listening!)

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Freddie, do you have any really good weird writers/bloggers/substackers/etc. you can recommend?

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Huh, maybe this is the thing that will make me actually do the writing i always tell myself that i'll do someday when life settles down but then don't because life never settles down and whoops now i'm 38 and tired all the time. Or, more likely, it'll be like when i was a kid and turned that jolt of inspiration from reading 'Dear Mr. Henshaw' into about three and a half pages of noodling before abandoning it. Still, there's a draw there; i keep picking up vibrations like maybe i should, even if as always it just ends up being for my own benefit.

Thanks for the thoughtful tips, i enjoy reading your writing and feel fortunate that you're pumping it into my inbox so regularly.

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I think your starting spiel about how easy it is to write is indicative of a curse of knowledge, an obliviousness towards the difficulties of writing induced by being a very good writer.

Being a *good* writer is absolutely not easy. I really thought this was obvious given how much bad writing I (and surely you) must have seen, not to mention my own difficulty with producing good writing. If you only meant that "writing" is easy but not necessarily good writing, then that is almost tautological. Any task can be (poorly) done easily. It is not as you say, that writers have created the impression that writing is hard, it's the essay writing experience we all went through in school that the ~80% of us struggled with. This very comment took me maybe 10-15 minutes to write, not out of any Instagram distractions, but out of the fact that writing is most definitely not as easy.

It's as laughable a suggestion as a veteran software engineering suggesting that programming is "easy". Can anyone write a Hello World program or a simple series of if-else statements? Sure. But programming is much more than that, and if it were actually "easy", we wouldn't need to pay others to do programming for us.

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This is one of the best pieces I have ever read. Period.

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“Get insinuated into the money stream!” (Essentially the same thing you said) That’s what I advised an accounting-intern-soon-to-be-CPA at an investment firm who was unsettled to be bored doing accounting things. She was proposing to champion women’s equality in the workplace issues at the firm (talk about 50 years after the first wave!), but was also aggressive in wanting promotion and raises. “You don't want to be a CPA at a law firm, or a lawyer at an accounting firm! Get involved in investing - that’s where you work, and that’s where the big salaries are.”

I posit there is an actual difference between Millennials who started out clueless and have become cynical but effective after analyzing their situation, and the current non-STEM graduates who have been so brainwashed in uniformity of thought by the education establishment that they are incapable of ‘being weird’ in the way you advise. I hope not, but God help us.

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When reading Twitter and sometimes blogs, there's sometimes the effect of listening to half a telephone conversation. People are reacting to something I didn't read, so I learn of things by reading other people's reactions to them.

If it weren't for the reactions, I wouldn't know about the terrible thing someone said. But am I missing anything? Often, no. Remaining entirely ignorant of the thing that someone that I don't care about said would be fine.

Book reviews are a kind of reaction that I like, since you get a summary of a book you're probably never going to get around to reading, and hopefully the reviewer adds some useful context. It helps if the book is good or at least unusual. (Also, writers of book reviews don't assume you've read the book.)

So, I guess what I'm saying is that if you want to be interesting, maybe write things that aren't reactions to the same things that other people react to? And hopefully they are reactions to things that aren't just crap.

Then again, here I am writing a reaction in the reactions section. It's been a long time since I wrote something that wasn't a reaction. At least, here, a reader will have read the original piece first.

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