Poems and trying to develop a writing schedule

So much to write, and so little time.

There are times, many of them, when I wish I lived on Pluto. Each Plutonian day is six earth days. Just think of all the things one could accomplish! If you could condition yourself to somehow subsist on eight hours of sleep, you’d have 136 hours left in the day.

Alas, you’d never know since you’d instantly freeze to death. We’ll find out for sure when New Horizons has its rendezvous with Pluto in July 2015, but I’m guessing it’s around -384 degrees there. Cold, cold, cold.

So, we are left to ponder how to make the most of our time on earth.

Yes, a person could try to get by on five hours of sleep a day and have 19 hours to do the rest of their stuff. My problem is that after three days of five hours of sleep daily, I’m ready to crash for about 12 hours.

So, the best thing to do is to make a daily schedule and, if necessary, deny yourself the fun of Facebook, Twitter, Justin Bieber videos or reading about the latest Lady Gaga controversy until you get your writing done. Ideally, each day I’d love to write 2,000 words on my novel(s), a few thousand on short stories, update my blogs, write poems and journal.

Busy work? Yes, but it isn’t as difficult when you consider how much time wasted in an average day.

As far as poems, I have more written and may post by Monday.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

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Distancing myself from ‘free’ freelance writing work

For about a year I had been blogging at a sports website. That is coming to an end. The blogging pays nothing. Yes, it’s nice to sometimes hear from readers and receive kudos, but at this stage in my writing career I am narrowing things down to where I write for free only in certain circumstances. That blog was just too much time for no pay. The same goes for another blogging assignment that would take me an hour to write and to format and load–for $2.

Steve, a colleague and friend who writes for a famous magazine and wrote a book about Tiger Woods, once told me to avoid potential clients who say, “We can’t afford to pay you, but what we can do is give you a byline on our website.” I might add that, professionally, you should respond with: “Um, HE-LLO, McFly! [Knock on their noggin] Anybody home? Of course you will publish my name on writing work. But if you want me to take time out of my life to work for you, I expect to get paid.”

Conversely, I wonder what my landlord, internet provider, electric company, cell phone company and other monthly bills would say if I told them instead of paying my bill, I’d blog about them and make sure their name got out on the internet. Somehow, I think they’d threaten to cut off my services after laughing themselves silly.

A few years ago, I had a Christian information website called the Alpha Omega Chronicle (I say that name freely because if I ever do the site again, it’ll be under a different name). Every few weeks I’d pose a question and solicit responses from various Christians. I had people writing opinions on issues for me but I began to grow very convicted about not having the money to pay them for their services. I’ve come to this conclusion: if I ever re-launch the website, I will pay each person a fee for their opinion. No free writing. Likewise, I recommend to others who want to start a website requiring the services of writers and other professionals: don’t do so until you can afford to pay them.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

To blog or not to blog: knowing when to hit ‘delete’ instead of ‘post’

This past week I wrote two blog postings, one for this blog and the other for my From A to Zowie blog. After much deliberation, I have decided post neither.

The first one was a movie review of an indie film my wife and I saw a few weeks ago. Writing about this film took me back to my teen years when I saw a movie that, frankly, I regret watching. If I named the movie I recently saw, you might know the older film I’m referencing. Suffice it to say, overall I did not like the film and have decided not to post about it even though the posting was decently written.

As for the second one, it was a listing of writing projects I have going on with brief descriptions of each one. It’s funny–I find poker to be a waste of valuable television air time, but sometimes you have to approach your writing career like a game of poker. Be very careful not to tip your card. Know when to hold, fold, walk away, run, blah blah. After some consideration, I felt that blog posting revealed too much information about my projects, so I decided to axe it also.

Even today, after having been a blogger now since 2007 or so, I am astonished by how much personal information is out there.

One former work colleague (I won’t say where) blogs under a pseudonym and used to air lots and lots of details–some of it pretty personal–about her job. It’s the kind of thing that could get you into trouble someday.

Richard Zowie is a writer whose first love is fiction. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Are websites and blogs the future of journalism?

My gut response would be yes.

When I began my career as a writer back in 2000, we did our writing on PCs and our layout on Macs. We took photos which then had to be processed at a local lab. The pictures would then be scanned and laid out. Once we published the print edition, a gentleman would put out the website edition. Sure, there were lots of websites in 2000, but it seemed amazing for me that our newspaper could also be read online. After all, isn’t it called a newspaper? To me, it seemed a little like science fiction.

My, how things change.

These days, more advanced computer programs are used for writing and laying out a newspaper. Photos are taken with digital cameras, meaning the photos can be instantly viewed and downloaded instead of waiting an hour or so for the lab to have them. After the print edition is completed, then the web edition is put out.

Some newspapers that have websites are extremely reluctant about putting their news online while some newspapers (such as the one where my sister works) don’t have a website at all. Here’s the concern of many newspaper owners: if we put the news online and let people read it for free, what motivation will they have to buy the print edition?

Can a publication have both a newspaper and a website? Yes. I think the best way to do the website is to make it accessible by username and password for subscribers only (perhaps two types of subscriptions: one for those who want a subscription to the print edition but access also to the web edition and another for those who want access to the web edition only). Everyone else can read a teaser of each story but then is prompted to become a paid subscriber to read the rest of the story. Whether or not this business model will actually work remains to be seen.

Having a news publication online is especially convenient for people who live hundreds or thousands of miles from home and would like to find out what’s going on in their hometown. True, they can always wait for the print edition to be mailed to them, but some don’t like having to wait for the paper arrived and see that it was what happened two weeks ago. They want to know what’s going on right now.

Some news publications are choosing to go more towards web editions and less on print. The Christian Science Monitor is online only while some daily metros, like the San Antonio Express-News, are available in print form inside the city only. This past summer, the Flint Journal dwindled down to become published only a few times a week in print. That is only bound to increase with newspapers finding it more and more difficult to make money off their print versions.

More recently, while getting photos at a high school basketball game, I encountered a man sitting and observing the game while typing at a laptop. He told me he was with the Saginaw News and was doing doing live blogging of the game. Others who don’t even work at newspapers (such as Matt Drudge) have their own websites where they can write about things going on and upload links where people can read about a story posted in another paper.

I suspect that in about 50 years there will be few, if any, print-edition newspapers around. Perhaps they’ll cease from being called newspaper and will instead be called newsblog or newssite or newsnet. With the cell phones that now have internet access, this is becoming more and more likely. It’s easier to access a website than it is to go out and buy a paper and sort through a bunch of sections to get to where you want.

A colleague (more like a mentor) tells me he hopes that blogs don’t become the future of journalism since they are merely opinion gathering and not journalism. For some, blogs are popular because they have on faith that when they read in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald, Kansas City Star or other mainstream newspaper is really accurate, fair or balanced. They figure someone who’s a decent writer but not a professional reporter couldn’t do any worse. Sometimes that might be true, other times it is not.

Besides that, some argue that with blogs there’s no way to really regulate what they post. The day could very well come where laws will be passed stating that any news website must pay some sort of fee and be licensed in a way where they are expected to follow rules for fairness and accuracy, and where they can be held liable for publishing libelous comments or stories.

That’s a great point, but these days it’s far easier to start a web news site than it is a newspaper. To start up a newspaper requires a huge investment of capital, followed by securing advertising and hiring the right people. Most recently, the Detroit Daily Press tried this and failed miserably; some former workers allege they were never paid for their work. To start up a website costs only the fee to buy the domain name and to hire someone to make it look nice online while you have the task of uploading news. Blogs, such as the ones here at WordPress, cost nothing unless you want to upgrade. It’s far easier to run web-based news than it is print.

It’s 2010, and it’ll be fascinating to observe this decade whether or not newspapers will make a comeback. My guess is that as the older generation passes on and the computer generation becomes more rampant, we may very well see the day where printed newspapers become as archaic as typewriters.

Richard Zowie has been a professional writer for almost 10 years and has been published in the San Antonio Express-News, Recreation Management magazine, Flint Journal’s Flint Community Newspapers and various web-only sites. His opinions are not necessarily reflected by his past and current clients. Post comments or e-mail richardzowie@gmail.com.

Is journalism ‘dead’?

A few months ago, I lunched with a friend and professional colleague. We discussed journalism–particularly the present and future. This friend, who was once a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, told me three disturbing words:

“Journalism is dead.”

He encouraged me to apply for government public affair positions. You know, military and government publications.

So far, I’ve been doing that and have been surprised at the pay rates of many jobs. Some that are writer/editor positions pay a minimum $50,000 per year.

Zowie! I thought, hoping my parents wouldn’t be bothered by my taking my surname in vain.

Try getting that kind of pay as a real-world journalist these days, even though writing is a skilled job that few do well.

If I had to describe the future of journalism in one word, it would be Internet. Someday, virtually all newspapers will not only be online, but they’ll be online only.

Another word: blogs.

One venture I’m looking into would require me to travel a lot. I’ve told my wife that what would be cool to do is to spend time each day or so blogging about where I’ve been and what’s been going on. You know, a travel blog. Perhaps even toss into there local events of interest.

I know some are reluctant about blogs because of they’re unchecked and can be inaccurate. (I’ve even had to make corrections on my From A to Zowie blog). Believe me, in the nine years I’ve been a writer, I’ve observed newspapers can be inaccurate also. One acquaintance told me he stopped giving quotes to a local paper while a sports coach because he was tired of being misquoted. A colleague told me a major New York newspaper once got a glaring detail very wrong regarding a celebrity (if I said their name, you’d know instantly who they were) supposedly entering the adult film business. I remember e-mailing an editor once regarding a historical film review printed, and asking her why they’d print a review that contained historically-inaccurate information.