Reality Truck: So You Wanna Be a Writer

In responding to a recent onslaught of surveys from journalism students on how to become a writer, Rhonda Reeves selected the following quote from Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: "Fine to hear you brimming and to hell with journalism if you say so. Personally, I have to live on it a while longer & a piss-poor living it is. I am looking forward to a none-too-distant day when I can QUIT. Yes. QUIT. I have rubbed all my guns with silicone waterproofing & put my dog in the care of decent people and I am now in the process of making one last rush at the world and its lunacy." More helpful advice follows."Fine to hear you brimming and to hell with journalism if you say so. Personally, I have to live on it a while longer & a piss-poor living it is. I am looking forward to a none-too-distant day when I can QUIT. Yes. QUIT. I have rubbed all my guns with silicone waterproofing & put my dog in the care of decent people and I am now in the process of making one last rush at the world and its lunacy. Whatever comes of it won't matter, good or bad, because somewhere in the distance I have a vision of mountains and space and quiet and a place to make beer and mumble around naked and shoot out the front door & not give a damn for much of anything but the weather. The world is not mad, as I thought, but sane in the cheapest kind of way. So chalk me up as mad and to hell with it." -- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud HighwayEvery year about this time, well after all the freshmen have settled in, several professors around the region assign these naifs to go interview someone who has their idea of "a dream job." That's when my phone starts to ring and my email starts to hum with questions about the glamorous life of a writer. Now, I'm reluctant to whine too extensively about the rigors of my job because I come from a long line of people who actually "work" for a living and I think when my job is compared to theirs, it would seem incredibly ungracious of me to complain. So, as much as I may grumble, I am fully aware that my career trajectory has been a reasonably satisfactory one by most people's standards. Still. A dream job? That's a lot of pressure. Now that I've had a chance to think about the questions, I'm beginning to suspect that perhaps my answers could've been more helpful than the ones listed below.*What did you study in school?Study. That's such a strong word.*What qualities/skills/knowledge are necessary to succeed as a writer? Or is it a secret?It's a secret, and judging from my checkbook, obviously it's one no one has let me in on.*And what advice do you have for me?Get out while you still can. Run. Before it's too late.*How did you obtain your current position?>I inherited it of course. No. Seriously. I killed my predecessor.*What is a normal salary range for positions such as yours?(Feel free to refrain from commenting if you find this question intrusive.)Define "normal." Actually, I'd better refrain from answering unless I want the world's supply of writers to dry up overnight.*What is a typical day like for you?This seems kinda personal, but ok ... I'm so sick of everyone else's "slice o' life" columns about what their kids had for breakfast and how many mums they planted, I'll just share mine too. First, I speed off to work every morning (in my status-symbol Corolla with 137,000 miles on it) to a delicious, haute cuisine breakfast at the campus McDonald's drive-thru "where everybody knows my name" and it STILL takes me 25 minutes to get a damn cinnamon roll and Coke. I get to my office, open up all my email and mail, and "work." Sometimes I "write" and sometimes I "edit." Sometimes I "cry." Occasionally, I exchange pleasant jocularities with my co-workers. For example, Rob "Big City" Hulsman just handed me an invitation to an artist's reception which features a piece called (and we are not making this up), "Woman with a Goiter." Somebody on local public radio recently described our staff as "wacky, academic, and eclectic" and I bet this is just the kind of wacky thing he surmised goes on around here all the time. Later, I go home, where I quickly swathe myself in Saran Wrap, open a bottle of fine wine, and wait for my ultra-handsome, incredibly devoted boyfriend to come over and ... hey, wait a minute, this IS intrusive.*What technological advances are on the horizon?Why anybody would ask me this is an utter mystery. I thought I'd made a huge technological leap when I switched from a Smith-Corona to an IBM Selectric. My indoctrination into the computer world was not a pretty sight. Trying to stay a step ahead of Bill Gates would only make my head hurt.*What will your home and work environment be like in 2010?You mean if we all survive the fiery apocalypse? Well, they'll probably be the same -- as I panhandle for spare change while trying to warm my hands over the heating events at the downtown hotels. No really. I think everything will happen pretty much just like the Jetsons said it would. I'll be working at either Spacely Sprockets or Cogswell Cogs, for example.*How will you get your news and information in 2010 through ways not yet available?* Do you mean like "thought beams" or something similarly Orwellian? Here again, I defer your questions to Bill Gates.*What will you do for entertainment in 2010 that isn't available now?* Currently, my dog and I watch a lot of television ... so what we're hoping is there'll be more channels by then. He's a big fan of Animal Planet, and my tastes aren't even THAT esoteric.*What will American society be like? What demographic changes do you expect? What social changes do you expect?* I'm not sure what this has to do with anybody's dream job, and I'm really not qualified to answer questions on behaf of society, but even I've noticed that the population's aging. And since most women my age tend to (demographically speaking) marry older, there'll probably be a lot more of us young, glamorous widows, spending all that life insurance money and going to the beach more frequently, I'm guessin'.*What can you study now that will help you adjust to the coming changes?* Dianetics. Oh yeah. That's the answer.*What would you recommend that I do to get a job like yours?* Go to church and pray for my untimely demise. But please bear in mind that if I can't be the "queen of hearts" in my lifetime, I don't want anybody etching it on my tombstone. (Just in case.)

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