I’ve realized something about myself lately and it’s that I’m the type of person who chooses the path of least resistance. Quite a random self-realization admittedly, but not completely out of the blue.
You see, I arrived home the other day to a parcel waiting for me. A long awaited parcel. A parcel that contained a coffee-table book I’d been published in, called The Journey. It’s a photographic Journey showcasing a range of amazing train trips across the world. My very own train journey, documented and previously published on my blog, had been hand-picked to feature.
Imagine my surprise when, after ripping open my parcel and excitedly paging through the book, I could not find my piece. It featured nowhere in Asia, where an Indian rail journey would be found. Naturally it occurred under none of the other continents either. Anger, then disappointment, then sadness, the anger again. Had they really strung me along for almost a year? The emailing back and forth, captioning photos, doing a write-up, signing permission forms, sending my address to receive a free copy. Only to axe my contribution at the last minute? Or whatever the hell happened.
I get it – not everything makes it through the editing process. But this experience confirmed something for me, something I’ve know for along time: writers, or any creative for that matter, can be summed up in just a few words – disposable, undervalued and beat down. Of course there’s the constant rejection from magazine, book and online publishers we have to deal with, and lets not forget the fact that as ‘contributers’ we are expected to give our work away for free 95% percent of the time. I’d gotten used to all that. But the lack of decency to remain the least bit honest or transparent on the issue of ‘we know the deal was signed to publish you but unfortunately it won’t be happening this time’ completely bowled me over.
So the path of least resistance comes in where you ask? Well, besides the anger and disappointment, one of my first reactions to this came as a flashback of me trying to organize a second Colorado ski season. It was looking impossible visa-wise and my dream of another season drifted further and further away. Eventually it would seem my only option would be to do it illegally – arrive and remain as a tourist and (hopefully) work cash in hand. I was so desperate to go I considered this option for a bit. But I eventually realized it could all go horribly wrong so I went back to the drawing board to map out a new plan, in a new country.
As it turned out, the path of least resistance in this case was to move to Chile and teach English. There was nothing complicated about the process and I was making a conscious effort to ‘go where I was needed and wanted’ and the USA could stick it.
That year in Chile did two things for me: further fuel my desire to travel and spark my interest in teaching. The desire to travel was the stronger of the two and was accompanied by an equally strong desire to write about those travels. ‘I’ll become a travel writer’ I said. Turns out, travel writers are expected to contribute in exchange for the grand total of zero dollars – and as for making money from a blog…. Lets just say that’s not exactly resistance free, to say the least.
And so, over the years, I’ve leaned more and more towards the teaching. Because, who would ever think of asking a teacher to contribute to society without monetary reward? Of course, a child’s education is of greater importance than an entertaining or insightful written piece. I get that, I really do. But so do the publishers. They know very well that writers are desperate for recognition. They know they’ll contribute for free thinking that one day it’ll pay off with some recognition and maybe a measly payment. I’ve known this all along, but my recent ‘here’s your free copy of a book you’re actually not published in’ experience really just put things into perspective for me. The world, especially publishers, don’t give a shit about writers. They care about money, and their business models simply don’t not include paying the talent.
At the end of the day, the path of least resistance works for me because I don’t have it in me to be a struggling writer. The way I feel today after receiving an amazing book that was supposed to feature my work but didn’t is not a way I’m keen to feel very often. I know I have it in me to be a writer, but I don’t have it in me to be a struggling, depressed one.