I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Mostly about working and making a living at what you’re good at. When I decided to finally get serious about this writing thing, being the compulsive researcher I am, I delved into finding out what it takes to make it in the literary community. I found a wealth of knowledge. Workshops to improve writing skills, techniques to improve discipline (still trying that), and how to choose the right agent. Most articles gave all this great advice but typically surmised it all with something like “Many writers get rejected 300 times. Don’t expect to have your pitch or manuscript even be considered unless you have loads of experience all ready (I do not) or you know someone who knows the business well but GOOD LUCK! :-)”. I imagined the smiley face but it wasn’t actually there. It’s my attempt to soften a definite blow. The blow that is all boiled down to a single hard pluck in my forehead. You have to know somebody, who knows somebody, who can make your dreams come true. All the studying and preparation in the world cannot replace the value of a well-placed friend in a position of influence.
My eagerly inflated balloon popped and whizzed around the room before landing squarely on my head (where I’d just been plucked). I was deflated. I was defeated. I don’t know someone, who knows someone. This was going to be a task.
Almost in direct response to my defeat, the universe, as it continually does, began to show me little nuggets of positivity to guide my way. My husband and I share an insane love of all things music. We’ve been glued to the television all year watching all of the awards shows for new sounds and talent. In true groupie fashion we were front and center (in our bedroom) for the Grammy’s this past Sunday. As usual there is always one artist or group that cleans up at the Grammy’s and walks home with a mob of tiny gramophones. This year one of those groups are an independent duo by the name Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. They are currently shutting things down in a huge way and changing the music industry in the process. They won four Grammy’s off of their independently released studio album “The Heist”. Yes, INDEPENDENTLY released. No major record label backing whatsoever. Intrigued? So was I.
Everything always comes back to writing for me so instantly my brain perked up. What about writers? Are they doing it for themselves? Of course! Google couldn’t get me the information fast enough. Big name authors that have become household names started out via the self-publishing route. E.L. James, author of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy first launched her novel from a self-published platform. John Grisham, acclaimed author of “A Time to Kill” and “The Firm” also self-published and later rose to success (understatement of the decade). I could feel my fingertips tingling as I scrolled through story, after story. I was inspired. Maybe I don’t have to know someone, who knows someone, after all.
The idea of networking is not foreign to me. I know that socializing and making connections is just as tantamount to a career as education and raw skill. BUT I always thought, rather naively, that the job would always ultimately go to the person/people best suited for the position. Oh how the stark realities of adulthood have reared their ugly head! I’m realizing that, in reality nepotism is a four letter word, and the CEO’s nephew who got three DUI’s last year could possibly be signing my checks for the rest of my life. In the words of TV personality, Nene Leaks (RHOA), “Chile, bye!”
When did we stop self-endorsing? I get, on a quintessential level, the need to have a body of work recognized by one’s peers. I think it’s become more than that. It’s not just about recognition, it’s become about validation and that’s a dangerous game that I’d rather not play. All artists should feel validated by what they create. The sheer effort it took to sit down and commit to completing something that comes from the soul. Completed with a concerted effort to make a statement, or bring joy, or change society, or just make a ripple that may cause a tsunami sized shift in humanity holds within itself an instant validation.
I want to get back to artists simply creating and sharing. Allowing the masses to dictate what it wants instead of a few choice executives in those few top publishing firms…or record labels…or museums…studios. That’s why I’m completely in love with this social networking and advanced technological age. I get to go on blogs and get passion from its source. Not watered down or truncated but real, and raw and I can tell those artists that they are amazing and they can REPLY directly to me! What a gift. This, what’s being created in this generation, is the birth of a movement that I’m proud to be a part of. In this generation, this new wave, I guess I do know someone, who knows someone, who can give me my dream. Me.
If it’s been a white boys club for 70 years, that’s a lot of white boys hiring one another. And I don’t believe that happens out of any specific racism or sexism or prejudice. People hire their friends. They hire who they know. It’s comfortable. You want to be successful, you don’t want to take any chances, you don’t want to rock the boat by hiring people of color because, well, look at us. Both Betsy and I like the world that we work in to look like the world that we live in. Different voices make for different visions. Different visions make for something original. Original is what the public is starving for. – Shonda Rhimes (Writer & Producer, Scandal)