inbox, part two.

Happy birthday, Anna Beth. I miss you, old lady.

[db]

Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow’s negotiations… and for tomorrow night’s episode of Samantha Who? — which moves to its brand-new time slot at 9pm (8pm Central)! (Following the season finale of Dancing With the Stars!)

(My life is so very very very weird.)

Want even weirder? “The Hypnotherapist” episode of Samantha Who? is currently number 28 on iTunes. It’s the first time I’ve gone to check over there. This strike is bumming me out. Which is why I decided to plow back through the inbox, to give myself a little pep talk from all y’all. With Oprah’s “Favorite Things” episode playing in the background. And coffee. Yeah, I’m pulling out all the stops before Week Four.

[db]

[readermail]
I’m of mixed feelings here.

I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer since the moment that I first learned that the little squiggles on pages represented words and that those words could go inside of me and come out again, revealing thoughts and emotions and all kinds of things that were filled with magic and passion and life.

I’m also a ghost writer. I’ve ghost written screenplays and novels and non-fiction books. I get paid for my product, and that’s it. After that, someone else gets to do with it what they will. I merely used my talents to get the words out. (Yes, I’ve ghost written some screenplays and television shows that have earned the people who hired me a lot of money, and I didn’t see a dime of that. That’s fine, though — because I got paid for my initial product.)

When someone tells me that forty-eight percent of Guild writers are unemployed at any given time, my immediate response is: “So what?” Take a look at the rest of the country and ask me to shed a tear for the poor, unemployed writer. They’re unemployed because they want to be paid for living out their passion. The rest of the country is working at jobs they hate working at because that’s what you do when you have a family to support. Let’s face it — you think that someone like me enjoys getting next-to-nothing for writing a novel, while I’m also holding down two jobs? Of course not, but that’s what you do when you’re a grown-up.

Seems to me that a lot of the writers out there are babies.

The writers need to be careful here. As it is, more and more people are walking away from television and movies, and turning to the internet. But, they’re not turning to the internet to watch television and movies. They’re turning to the internet to watch “user content,” and some of it is really good. It’s the kind of good that might actually have gotten someone noticed if they had been able to get it into the right hands in the entertainment industry — but because the system is so closed, they couldn’t do it. (By the way, I’m not talking about myself here. That’s not my gig, but I know people who have more talent than the guys who wrote [edited to be kind — p.], that’s for sure.)

Sorry if my thoughts are rambling but I’ve been pulling a double shift and I should be in bed, but I just clicked on a link that was talking about the strike and why writers are doing it and I just wanted to share with you the thoughts of the great unwashed from Texas.

On the other hand, though, I’ll admit that I love SAMANTHA WHO and to let you know that you’ve got a talented team there.

Regards,
Richard
[/readermail]

Hi, Richard. I’ve thought a lot about your letter, and often, and I wanted to make sure to respond to it. I’m doing it publicly to show you that I really do care.

I started writing just as you did. Working on freelance projects, turning in a product and then never seeing it again, nor making any money off of it. I worked in Anime, creating the Americanized dub scripts for several series. Some made it to VHS and later DVD. They still sell them to this day. When you search my name on Amazon, it pulls up series I scripted, but I don’t get a dime off of that. But it helped me when I needed to earn enough money to come out here to Los Angeles and try to make a career out of writing. I wrote my first novel on unemployment, while hustling an assistant job for money under the table. I’ve written for the Internet for almost a decade now, and that’s money you can’t always count on. People used to tease me that I’ve got five jobs at any one time. That’s how you had to do it, to be a full-time freelance writer. To be able to afford the rent, the bills, self-employment health insurance, and all the things that come with the unpredictability of that kind of job. Was I whining that it was too hard, and was I being a baby? Not really. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t another choice. I walked away from tech jobs. I stopped trying to make my website into an ad-blasting money machine. I didn’t give up performing, either.

But I didn’t start a family. And I had to leave Texas.

You and I made different choices in order to focus on what we had to do. We’ve both made sacrifices. We both went through hardships and financial difficulties. I don’t know you, so I can’t assume anything. I’m only going off of what you wrote here.

But here’s why I’m not being a baby. If your job was suddenly paying you less than you were supposed to earn, trying to roll back your health care and pension, and deciding which of your co-workers to supply health care and pension (namely, your upper management, but not you), and you decided to do something about that? I would fully support you. And it doesn’t matter what your career is, or where you work, or how much you make. You are entitled to a fair share of your business’ revenue.

Let’s go to the other extreme. Some jobs out there are extremely dangerous. To take them means to put your life at risk. You risk injury or even death. Does that mean someone who takes such a risky job shouldn’t complain when they’re injured? When something happens that requires health care or a pension? They knew that job was risky when they took it. Should I not feel for them when their families are struggling? When city ordinances or big business makes it harder for them to do their jobs, should I say if they don’t like it, they should get another job?

As for the Internet, and writers becoming obsolete with more and more people turning to user-created content — that’s why we’re striking. Not to save our jobs, but to protect those who will find themselves generating revenue and creating viable content for the Internet. Or soon you’ll find those same big companies owning those sites you love, and user-created content will turn into the same kind of work you and I used to do — but all of the revenue will be going back to those six companies. Do you really think it makes sense that the writers of the Emmy-award winning webisodes of The Office weren’t paid a single cent, when NBC makes money every time someone watches it?

The little guy needs someone to help them battle the big guy. That’s what the WGA is trying to do. That’s why we’re striking — not for ourselves, but for the writers that are going to be working here in the future. Most of the people walking the picket line won’t ever see the rewards of what we’re striking over. But someone who’s just starting out, hustling her ass off to make ends meet, hoping she can turn her passion into a career, hopefully after this strike is over, when she gets her big break, she’ll be entering an industry that protects her a bit more, and compensates her for the hard work and sacrifices she had to go through to be lucky enough to work.

It seems to me, the only way to be a baby is to complain without doing anything. I promise you, I’m doing everything I can to change what I perceive to be unfair. And the good news is, I’m not the only one doing everything I can. Unlike when I first started out in this business, I’m no longer alone. I’ve got thousands of people just like me, with the same drive and ambitions, all trying to reach the same goal. We’re not whining; we’re fighting.

Continue reading