Monday, November 26, 2012

The long game

I joined the NUJ just before regional
journalists nationwide went on strike
in 1978 - we were off for weeks. 
Sheila and I agreed, on the train back to Brighton picking over our day, that there were worse things to be doing. We'd had a day of free cake and sandwiches, cups of tea and generally inspiring speakers. I'm a lifelong member of the National Union of Journalists and this event, organised by London Freelance Branch, was on new ways of making journalism pay.

In the spirit of my dear friend Jane, who has continually reinvented herself and kept up to date, I booked and whether or not work emerges, was glad I did just to be around a sense of innovation and energy, younger writers who are not yet cynical and tired. And I now have a use for those long dark winter nights knowing writers can take publishing into their own hands (seize the means of production!) and use technologies to regain control of our work. The day was a series of solutions to a writer's gripes and moans, actually.

There were many women, like me with grey hair, experience and more time now. I felt perhaps I could do something in this great shift away from a monolithic publishing industry. It struck me how many of us cross-subsidise. A photographer will pay for a trip to a war zone with commercial work. A writer will subsidise an investigative project writing corporate reports. What I've learned by this continual interplay of buying myself time is how different areas of my work influence one another.

Writing is a long game shaped by experiment and persistence, by learning. How reassuring to read in the Observer yesterday, 77 year old Albie Sachs talk of his screenwriting mentor. His excitement at finishing the latest draft. I am excited by having time for the union. By the ebook I have on the go and what else it will lead to.