I know, I went AWOL again on the blog. But this time I have a really good excuse: I was writing a short story instead.
This is a milestone: my first piece of fiction since the mid-90s. It’s with a few readers now, and assuming that no major fixes are necessary (I’ve already done one revision pass based on Jak’s feedback), I’ll be submitting it to an editor in a couple of weeks. So yeah, this ‘move to Mexico and write’ thing is actually starting to happen …
In the meantime we’ve also jumped through a number of logistical hoops, including finding a new house to rent (our lease is up at the end of March) and buying a (used) Mexican-plated car. The car was not part of the original plan — we intended to keep our existing car for a few more years — but became necessary when we were unable to get Jak’s residential visa in January. Bureaucracy for the lose …
The new house is gorgeous, and huge. Also expensive. Still much cheaper than living in Seattle, but our monthly costs are going to spike hard (and our savings percentage drop commensurately).
But Jak really, really wanted the place, and he’s the one who’s slaving away at the day job, so we agreed to increase our budget. Not that I am the tiniest bit sorry to have a good chef’s kitchen, finally, after years of ‘making do’. (One of the biggest problems with our current house is the nearly-nonexistent kitchen — I am pretty sure that this house was originally a three-room servants’ casita, later expanded and semi-converted. The kitchen was definitely crammed into a corner as an afterthought. I cook too much for this to not be painful.)
I’m also going to try to offset the housing cost increase by setting up our extra rooms on AirBnB. That will be a whole new side business for me, at least for the next year. So I’ve spent some time researching what that entails, setting up spreadsheets, etc. (Anyone ever used AirBnB, either traveling or hosting?)
So that’s the major news. I haven’t forgotten the AMA, but I might not get to it until April. Jak’s daughter Michaela is visiting this week, and then of course we’re moving, and I have a number of medical appointments queued up. But I haven’t forgotten, I promise!
There’s new writing on the way; I’ve been held up by an injured hand. Also the fact that after weeks of having nothing important to say (and feeling lame about it, too, such that I wrote a bunch of inane fluff about my dog just to be writing something), I suddenly have too much to say. I’m having trouble sorting it out into anything coherent.
While I wrestle with this, I have finally started something I’ve intended to do since I started this ‘new’ blog several months ago: retrieve the best of my older journal entries, and make them available again.
I’m reposting them without edits, except for reducing most of the names to initials. I’m also adding them under the date that they originally appeared, so you won’t see them show up as new entries here. (Not sure about the RSS feed.) You can find them by the nine lives tag, though, and there’s a permanent link on the ‘Past’ page as well.
They’re coming in non-chronological order; I’m choosing things that I think are important for some reason. In some cases — but not all — this means they’re backstory for something yet to come.
A few days ago I stumbled across the firestorm debate over Chris Anderson’s new book, Free. It started with Malcolm Gladwell’s review in the New Yorker, was rebutted by Seth Godin, and then, fueled by those three luminaries, spread far and fast across the interwebs.
In the middle of my attempts to follow the dendritic proliferation of response, the book itself became available — yes, for free — on Scribd and then Google Books. I stopped to read it through.
The book itself, and many of the responses to it, have sparked several different lines of thought for me — enough that it will take several posts (and days) to get through them. Here’s one:
• • •
One of Anderson’s core arguments in Free is that trying to get people to pay for digital media is a losing proposition. Gladwell summarizes it thusly: “The digital age, Anderson argues, is exerting an inexorable downward pressure on the prices of all things ‘made of ideas.'” The result is that content creators — writers, musicians, artists, anyone whose output can be represented by bits as well as atoms — are increasingly unable to make any money from their content.
I think Anderson is correctly identifying an inevitable shift. Yes, one might decry an individual example or poke pinholes in some of the associated conclusions, but by-and-large he’s codified a pattern that I’ve been consciously puzzling out for a couple of years now and instinctively aware of, in a fuzzy sense, for much longer.
What I can’t do is match his cavalier attitude. He seems entirely unbothered by the idea that words and music will not make any money for their creators, because he’s confident they can always find some tangential source of income: live appearances, advertising, related merchandise.
It seems clear that this is the future, and content artists will adapt to it or perish. But not only is this model dauntingly difficult for most artists right now, I can’t help but wonder whether some unexpected future technology will remove even those options from the table. Star Trek-style matter replicators that make atoms as easy to copy as bits are today, full-sensory holograms that reproduce everything about a live performance … not discernibly less likely than today’s circumstances would have seemed twenty years ago — though of course it’s probable that the next game-changer will be something as-yet undreamed of. I fear we are only partway down a long slippery slope, and I have no idea what the bottom looks like.
I wouldn’t worry so much if I felt more confident about the relative value society places on content creation (aka ‘art’ in the umbrella sense of the term). Writing, and to a lesser extent photography, get the worst of this; there’s some general recognition that drawing or singing or playing an instrument requires some talent — or at least a lot of practice — but a pervasive myth that anyone can write, and less awareness of difference in quality. Or so it seems to me. (I’d love to be convinced otherwise.)
That’s about as close as I will get to railing against the inevitable. Pragmatically, I am much more interested in that aforementioned problem of finding a self-supporting niche as a content creator in the radically shifting marketplace of the immediate future. Which I’ll talk more about soon.