It’s been about two months since I decided to move to Seattle, and yet it has already felt like a short lifetime. I’ve started work at a totally unfamiliar environment, begun exploring some of the rich neighborhoods around downtown, hung out with some really great locals, and found a neat new apartment in Belltown. In the meantime, I’ve also kept producing episodes of all of my podcasts, including the /Filmcast, The Tobolowsky Files, and A Cast of Kings (plus, did you hear? I’m launching a new one too).
I was prompted to write this blog post because I got all nostalgic this week reading /Film’s coverage of San Diego Comic-Con. Not too long ago, I went to Comic-Con for two years in a row, back when my work for /Film was at its peak output. I remember the special place in my geek heart that Comic-Con had occupied since my college days. The place was supposed to be a mecca of pop culture, a place where you could really let your freak flag fly and no one would judge you for it. Indeed, pretty much everything I saw comported with that dream. People dress up in crazy costumes and just nonchalantly waltz around in restaurants and convention halls alike. The gods of the film world frequently make appearances. Every now and then, you get some actual insight into the creation of a film or a TV show, or something crazy happens, or something really adorable happens. It’s like a geek’s dream-world.
But covering Comic-Con was a challenge. I recall endless lines in the hot sun coupled with hours of waiting for no guarantee of making it into a panel, and staying up late into the night, trying to bang out some relevant stories for the site. It was all so thrilling and exciting and wonderful and terrible. But there was so much camaraderie there, amongst all the great writers I had the privilege to work alongside. Sure, we were regurgitating poorly veiled marketing material, but we were racking up a crapton of pageviews, paying the bills, and basking in our love of “the popular arts.” There are few experiences as exhilarating and as cathartic. I miss the people. I miss the insanity. I miss the video blogs (one of which was actually covered by The New York Times).
This year, I didn’t go to Comic-Con. In fact, I spent this past Friday at a business meeting in San Francisco, all day. My life is totally unrecognizable from what it used to be.
It’s remarkable, this culture of online pop culture writers that’s sprung up over the course of the past decade. These people travel around the world, interviewing celebrities, seeing stuff before we get to see it, getting their own stuff read by tens of thousands of people. It sounds like living the dream and for many people, it is.
Eight months ago, I was wrapping up my Master’s degree and thinking about my next steps. One of the options I considered was diving straight into doing all of this online stuff full time. Podcasting, blogging, interviews, etc., all of it. If I really made a go of it, I would’ve probably been able to scrape together enough money to get by. But other opportunities came my way and I decided not to go that route.
In deliberating, I was confronted with an unmistakable truth: I just didn’t love it enough.
I’m sure that many of my favorite online writers live comfortably, but it is difficult out there for an aspiring film writer. There are perils everywhere. Write about something in the wrong way or in violation of some arbitrarily established “rules” and bloggers will jump all over you on Twitter. Meanwhile, the old guard will look down on you if they think your writing is not “serious” enough, or if, god forbid, you actually want to make money doing what you do. All the while, everyone vies for a rapidly vanishing slice of nominal ad dollars spent on their sites. For many, these are all just minor inconveniences that are endured in exchange for the vast benefits enumerated above. But for me, it’s not enough. At least, not right now. There are too many things that I want to do and to learn first, before I start living the life of Reilly. It may not be as outwardly exciting as going to Comic-Con or interviewing James Cameron, but I love the wonder and satisfaction of learning and overcoming and discovering in my current *gasp* corporate environment. That’s not to say that one can’t derive that from online work (it’s usually quite the opposite, in fact). It’s just to say that I can’t right now, at least without frantically worrying about my other life obligations.
At the /Filmcast, we recently marked the four-year “anniversary” of our first episode. It reminded me that while it’s certainly been a roller-coaster ride, the past four years have also been marked with a great deal of uncertainty in my life. I don’t know that I’ve settled into my final destination yet, but after a lot of struggle, things are finally starting to feel as though they have some momentum. I’m loving my new job, my new manager/boss, and all the awesome new things I’m learning. I like the way things are, even as I miss the way they were.
It’s possible that one day I will get back into the writing/broadcasting game and do it full-bore. But in the meantime, I’m content to watch from the sidelines, to remember the good old days, and to cheer on all of my colleagues. Regardless of how much of my life is in it, it’s a great time to be alive and to experience the pleasures of art, and the pleasures of loving it.