“I am the fog,” this woman with hair the color of fog told me after showing her this picture taken on an early morning bus ride.
I had said how beautiful I thought her hair and the fog appeared together.
I heard Pulitzer Prize winning speakers, expert professional speakers–all over the past several days and this spontaneous comment–this is what I remember most.
“I am the fog,” she said ruefully, smiling.
Why do I remember it?
Perhaps, it is the underlying truth of a writer’s conference in 2008 and, perhaps, the truth of all industry conferences taking place world wide.
How do writers/columnists get paid if their employer (newspapers) are laying off and budget cutting, and well, dying a slow death. On the way to attend this conference, I read an article from “The New Yorker”, where Bill Keller, the Editor of the New York Times, was quoted, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.”
At this writer’s conference, many of the attendees are or had been employed by newspapers, and though the mood was occasionally touched by the funereal, it did not deal directly with the issue that is on everyone’s mind and affecting every one’s income.
There was simply a very large elephant in the room. From the podium, and, even, in small groups, the game face was on; the laughter raucous.
But, wait. Did I hear a band playing on the First Class deck?
In the case of many writers I met this past weekend, their once weekly newspaper column had been cut down to twice a month, then to once a month, and in some cases, dropped entirely. Their old employers, newspapers, are in free-fall, as recently cited in “The New Yorker”by Eric Alterman.
Many, far younger than this woman pictured here, said they were afraid of technology beyond using email. They waved their hands away with “Oh, I can’t do it.”
How do very talented and creative people make the adjustments through a radically changing world? Just the same way as assembly buggy whip makers did when the first Model T was made in Detroit. We have to learn something new.
This woman pictured here was riding with me, sleep still in her eyes, at a very early hour to a workshop on internet marketing and how to use the “new media” to a writer’s advantage.
Buggy whip makers, freelance writers–we all need to reinvent ourselves along the way and fear is not a good guide through the fog of change, no matter what century we are in.