How Not To Quit Your Day Job
I submitted my resignation a few weeks ago. I can’t recall if I mentioned that. Doesn’t matter. I tend to play around with magical thinking occasionally, in this case the idea that I have some sort of regular job.
Also in this case—what I was submitting was an email, just a suggestion I make once in a while. A long time ago, I pestered the editor of a local community newspaper to look at my writing, which he finally did. He didn’t indicate to me that he was interested in expanding his company into a little publishing empire, although it’s been fun to watch. I grew up reading newspapers; everyone in my family read newspapers. I understand that things evolve, and while I worry about journalism in general these days, I won’t mourn dead-tree versions. These days, the only time I pick up an actual newspaper is when my neighbor leaves town for a few days.
I don’t work for this publisher, or his company. They function as a kind of syndicate, doling out my columns to various papers whenever they publish, with a deadline date of Monday morning, every week. They send me a check. Either of us could stop this arrangement on a whim. Sometimes I have whims.
Here’s my reasoning. I have interests, passions, things that catch my eye. I’ve never had a niche, and I’m not sure what that would be. I could probably just write about movies, or plays, a couple of subjects I’m familiar with. I could certainly write about politics.
That’s not what I do, though. When I first began this, I’d write about everything, local news, national politics, cultural shifts, new movies, old celebrities who die and stir up memories. I told stories about brushes with greatness and, eventually, stays in residential treatment facilities.
But I’m alone. For a while I had a co-columnist, someone with a different life story, political leanings, and writing style. If I wrote something that someone didn’t like, they could turn the page and calm down.
That was then. He wandered off after a couple of years, and other writers will pop in and out, all of them with niches. I really need a niche.
There’s nothing to see here. This is community journalism, and I’m modeling the columnists of my youth, Erma Bombeck and Andy Rooney, Garrison Keillor, Anna Quindlen. I’ve been a little more than kin, and less than kind.
I’ve been kind. You know. It’s an expression. Shakespeare.
So, once a year or so lately, I send off this email, essentially asking if I’m done. If I’ve run my course, if I’m repeating myself and running out of things to write about, given that I limit myself to certain subjects. If they can stop keeping me around for sentimental reasons and just let me fade away.
I’m not looking for affirmation, not in this case. Mostly it’s not wanting to feel awkward, to overstay my relevance, to serve as nostalgic filler and nothing else.
They never buy it. Naw, they say. Keep it up, they say.
This time, to the credit of the publisher, he asked what exactly might be a subject I’d like to write more about. It’s an interesting question. He means “niche” again, though. As I said, I have trouble finding a niche. I would have ordered a niche from Amazon by now.
So I’ll continue for a while, I guess. Maybe I’ll look at this again when I hit the 20-year mark. Maybe they’ll give me a gold niche. About time, I say.