Saturday, March 6, 2010

New and Noteworthy (Day Job, 10 Rules for Writing Fiction, David Jaffe's Heartland)

In today's edition:

* A piece in The Guardian about artists trying to make it on their day jobs, which also compares Britain's public provision for the arts with its counterparts on the continent.

It should go without saying that yes, having that day job takes its toll on an artist and their work. There's the fact that the thing with the primary claim on the artist's time and energy is not their art, the inevitable discouragement that goes with the lack of support and the strained resources, the special disdain society shows artists who aren't actually selling, and so on-all on top of the angst, pressures and compromises that even well-rewarded artists must cope with, and the general headaches that working people cope with in an age of diminished expectations. One can call it the worst of both worlds-and indeed, where writing's concerned, I sometimes wonder if this condition isn't part of the reason for the bleakness and depression so many editors complain they see too much of in their slush piles.

However, there's a strong tendency to pooh-pooh it-even among those who should know better, but who have fortunately (for them) never had to deal with the day job, or who have put it behind them. (Ironically, this coexists with the mouthpieces of Big Media screaming that anything but the most stringent legislation-and most Orwellian enforcement-of intellectual property rights will bring all of cultural life to a screeching halt.)

"Didn't T.S. Eliot work as a banker?" they ask simple-mindedly. (Indeed, that rather cliche comeback appears in the very first sentence of Mary Ellen Slayter's Career Track column for the Washington Post back in 2004, though otherwise she's not patronizing or dismissive.)

An attractive aspect of the Guardian piece, aside from its currency, is its sympathy for those in such circumstances.

* Also appearing in the Guardian (and generally pertaining to quite a different side of the "writing life"): a long two-part article listing the "top 10" rules for writing offered by a wide gamut of working writers, from Elmore Leonard to Margaret Atwood to Neil Gaiman and Michael Moorcock.

* Finally, an article at Kotaku.com regarding the fortunes of David Jaffe's ultimately frustrated effort to develop the politically-themed video game, Heartland.

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