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Should I Be a Poorly Paid Writer or a Better-Paid Publicist?

The Concessionist gives advice each weekend about the sordid choices of real life. Trouble? Write today.

Dear Concessionist,

Is there a future in writing? Or in publishing at all? I’m in my early 30s, and find myself kind of unexpectedly at a career/life crossroads. For the past many years, I’ve been more or less happily living some milquetoast version of a professional double life. My main employment has been in communications: publicity, branding, social media, blah blah. It’s not at all terrible work, but it sure can be! The people can be fun and interesting, and you definitely get a kind of thrill from it. Plus the parties are usually pretty good.

At the same time, I’ve also done some writing for a variety of publications. It’s, like, what? A hobby? A creative outlet? Something interesting I do to keep myself sane? A kind of internet cosplay? I honestly don’t know. I have gotten an offer or two to blog on staff for some publications, but they were entry-level jobs with entry level salaries. The kind of thing I’d talk about with my friends, and say, “If I were 25, I would take that job in a SECOND. But now…” Because I’m a bit older, and making a pretty small amount of money just so I can satisfy my ego by being able to say “I’m a writer” at dinner parties seemed selfish and short-sighted. (Plus does that even impress people at dinner parties anymore, or do they look at you like you’re insane and poor?)

Now, however, I’m out of work, and have a few job offers. Some are working as a writer, and some are working as a publicist. The publicity jobs, again, pay at least $20,000 more. Normally, I’d be able to sigh and take the higher paying job—sacrificing my ego to—what? Well, ideas of responsibility, plans for my future, and honestly my own desire to make more money and live the lifestyle and have the self-esteem that go along with that. Somehow, though, this time, I’m having a lot of trouble. It seems like, you know, since I have an actual real offer for a not-insanely low salary to work in publishing, and passing it up is like 100% firmly acknowledging forever that I was always playing at writing, that I wasn’t really dedicated, that I’m a fraud, and that really I’ve been a soulless corporate drone my whole life. I mean, I’ve basically never cared about or been proud of anything I’ve ever done in communications, other than maybe my paycheck. There’s the satisfaction that comes from working out a knotty problem, or winning some kind of bureaucratic battle with my bosses, but nothing that I’d like want to (or be able to!) show my friends or family, or look back on with any kind of satisfaction.

So, is there really a future in publishing? Is there any hope of making a decent living wage? Over the long term? And, on the other hand, would working at some large organization making decisions about the direction of the brand and then implementing them really been all that different than working as an editor at some magazine, should I be lucky enough to get hired doing that as my career progresses? Isn’t that increasingly what it’s going to mean to work on that side of the publishing world? Why kneecap myself and take a big salary cut just to end up doing the same work again in a few years? And how am I going to save money for my climate shelter if I take a low-paying job now?

So, yeah. Should I try this insane thing? Just curious. Thanks!

Confused Chap

New York City, January 29, 2015

weather review sky 012915★★ A line of brown haze in the northwestern distance spread up onto an ever-graying blue sky. The snow was still white, in general, but smudged with gray or pockmarked with yellow; the cold was damp and seeping. The children getting out of school lobbed a desultory snowball or four back and forth across the sidewalk. Snow-weighted bamboo hung low over the garden wall of the fancy apartment building, making it necessary to duck under or steer around. Trash bags were piled on top of the snow on top of the older piles of trash bags. A broken saucer sled lay beside them. It was not so cold that the garbage didn’t reek. 

A man who writes on the internet for a living receives an email message from a colleague of his with the words “the irony” in the subject header field. He clicks it open and it says,

“…of writing something you think is going to piss people off and then almost no one reads it.”

“that happens a lot,” he replies.

In a few moments another email comes from the same colleague. “I need to institute a plan of lowered expectations.”

“did i tell you the story,” he writes, “of when i went with my mom to her mother’s funeral and we missed a plane so were like an hour-and-a-half late for the funeral and then the speech my mom gave at the funeral about expectations?”

He sends.

He receives: “No.” #

David Cross on Kickstarter, Millennials, and His Directorial Debut 'Hits'

david_cross_hits2015 is off to a great start for David Cross. Not long after launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund distribution costs for his new film Hits, the project met its $100,000 goal with eight days to spare, ensuring that the film will premiere in at least 35 markets across the US next month. Written and directed by Cross, Hits debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last year and marks a big push for Cross not just into filmmaking but finding new ways to get low-budget indie films into actual theaters in small towns across the country, rather than just a VOD and limited theatrical release. While Hits has plenty of funny moments and a fantastic cast (Matt Walsh, Meredith Hagner, James Adomian, David Koechner, Amy Sedaris, Michael Cera, Derek Waters, and Wyatt Cenac, to name a few), at its heart it’s a darkly caustic journey into the pathetic depths of viral videos, internet fame, and the insatiable vacuum of lowest-common-denominator post-reality culture. I recently spoke with Cross about making Hits, why he turned to Kickstarter, and when we can expect the next big Mr. Show reunion update.

“Through adorable animated characters, kids can watch videos that are appropriate for a young audience. Swiping right or left shows a new Vine, and you can tap the screen to hear quirky sounds.#

Career Dilemmas Present in 'The Sims 4'

Sim working lateDifferent types of Sims players have different types of goals: The Architect wants to build beautiful homes. The Murderer likes to create Sims only to watch them die slow, painful deaths by trapping them inside their homes and watching them starve. Then there is the type that I fall under: the Careerist whose goal is to get to the top of whatever career their Sim is in.

I’ve been this way ever since I played the first generation of The Sims. I usually play as a woman, which makes things a little more complicated—just like in my real life. Things in the new Sims 4 are simpler and more progressive, but even in a simulation game the following finance and career dilemmas still pop up:

Struggling for a work-life balance
In previous generations of the game, you might have to work to increase your skill set, and maybe schmooze with some people outside of work to get a promotion. Now every position has a daily task to do once you get home. Were you looking forward to your Sim hanging out after work? Well if you want a promotion anytime soon then that’s too bad; get on that computer and start filing reports for several hours until it says you’ve completed them!

Take a long look at what may be the last generation of Manhattan-raised twentysomethings for whom Brooklyn will seem like a place that is far, far away—so far that they needed to convince all of their friends to move into the same terrible building with them:

All three couples were planning to move out of their Manhattan apartments by summer, and although the idea of Brooklyn was appealing — they could potentially get more space for the money — it was also unnerving. None of them had lived in Brooklyn before. Each worried that if the others did not follow, he or she could end up living in an unfamiliar borough without friends nearby.

“One of the issues that people my age have about moving to Brooklyn is that you think that the second you live there, you are moving to a foreign country and will never see anyone again,” said Woody Wright, 27, who grew up on East 58th Street and, at the time of the Hog Pit gathering, was planning to move in with his girlfriend, Britaania Poppie, who is 26 and works in finance.

Ms. Abrams’s enthusiasm proved infectious. By August, all three couples had moved into one-bedroom apartments at 388 Bridge, paying around $3,200 a month in rent for apartments on the 23rd, 24th and 25th floors.#

One day we might use the same faintly eulogizing tone to talk about Old Manhattan, a glorious island city that seemed to float in the clouds before the ocean reclaimed most of it, leaving just a handful of soaring skyscrapers which were abandoned and then slowly gentrified by a new wave of young people, pushed out over the water by the soaring rents in waterfront neighborhoods like Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill.#

Courtney Barnett, "Pedestrian At Best"


We’ve been big fans of Courtney Barnett since “the paramedic thinks I’m clever ’cause I play guitar/I think she’s clever ’cause she stops people dying,” and we are pleased to report that we have no need to change our status in that regard. Although you should probably steer clear of this one if you are disturbed by clowns.

All the Exposed Men's Ankles in the February "GQ," in Order

New York City, January 28, 2015

weather review sky 012815★★★ A few elongated clouds arrayed themselves on the sharp morning blue. The light on the slushy crosswalks was blinding; the puddles were a sinister clayey gray-brown. Mostly, though, the snow was enduring, still presentably white. The wet floor of the subway made it too risky to rush and jump into the open car at the warning tone, but the down parka made it relatively easy to take the blow of the slamming doors and squirm through. The sidewalks were everything from open pavement to solid packed snow, on opposite sides or even different lengths of a single block. An oncoming stroller bore down down along a channel just wide enough for its wheels. The paint of the window frames diffused generous portions of daylight into the office. Walking at dusk, small muscles in the lower legs tensed and ached a bit from making constant minor corrections on the slippery ground. The crisp-cut half moon, barely turning gibbous, was startling.