Saturday, July 4, 2020

THE BIG IDEA

Once upon a time, an escort client needed new photos and posed the following question: "Billy! Are you a photographer - or do you just take pictures?" My answer was equally challenging. "I'm not really a photographer. But that doesn't mean I can't get a money-making shot a photographer will miss if I take your photos."

There's a point to this story. Back at MCC, the education department organized a presentation wherein any inmate with a measure of musical ability and proficiency on an instrument demonstrated that talent for the entertainment of the inmate population. No doubt, the staff saw this as an opportunity to boost inmate morale. 

I attended the show at the request of one of the participants as he thought I'd be impressed with his performance. I was not - and with the exception of just one performer - found all to be criminals who played an instrument on the side as opposed to musicians who'd made a mistake and ended up in prison.

I relate this story to pose the question: "Am I a writer who made a mistake and ended up in prison - or a criminal who can write a little?" In my "career" as a published writer, I have scored virtually all of my gigs based on being a primary source. Which is to say that I got published in real mainstream media because I really was a cab driver - and am now really an ex-con. 

Thus, when issues surrounding the taxi industry or prison stories were front and center in the news, I got a payday. That's all well and good. But I'm trying to break out of that box. I almost feel like a Hollywood actor who's been type cast. I can only play the cabby - or ex-con. And I may never find a way out.

Last month, an editor asked me if I knew what was going on in the escort business - and a piece about the industry's reaction to covid could be worthy of publication on his employer's website. I really didn't know anybody from that previous life. But with a call or two and a little research into escort websites, I pieced together something that was actually pretty good.

When the editor got back to me, he was apologetic because even though the piece was worthy and professional enough, he couldn't sell the concept to his superiors. I'd essentially been jerked off. As in offered a job...done the work well enough...and then rejected with no payment. I didn't really care about that. I started in the music business. Getting sandpaper hand jobs which involved much more work is the story of most musicians' lives. 

But he did say something I found more disconcerting. In telling me I should go to Vice.com with the piece, he stressed that I needed to establish my credentials as an authority on the escort business. In other words, I had to indicate to the reader why he or she should read what I have to say. If a staffer had been assigned the same story, that wouldn't have even come into play. Ya know...because they're real writers and I'm a guest schmuck who can write a little.

Recently, my stock has gone down precipitously. After having 7 major articles published and made appearances on 3 major networks, my 15 minutes of fame seem to have elapsed. But I continue on my intrepid path. 

When Ron Jeremy was arrested, I wrote two separate pieces about his dim legal prospects. To one, I received the feedback "this is great. But not for the Beast." From the Daily News, I heard "this is fun and interesting. But I don't have the bandwidth right now." 

I could interpret these responses in two different half full/half empty ways. The former would be "we like these but simply can't use them right now. You really are a good writer. Keep submitting." The latter would be "we don't want to hurt your feelings and seem like we're rejecting an ex-con. But your run is over. Hopefully, you'll take the hint."

Neither my financial or mental health depends greatly on any of this. But now that I'm working a dead end/mindless job for the coming 6 more weeks, it would be nice to be noticed for my mind rather than my pedestrian work ethic. 

2 comments:

  1. I think you are a terrific writer and should keep going with it. Your blogs are great.

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    Replies
    1. And that comment made this entry worth the effort.

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