So. Last Friday, a corporate client who I’ve previously written for asked me how much I would charge to rewrite 350 words of their copy.
‘Fuck knows,’ I replied (I’m paraphrasing here). ‘Six hundred pounds?’
‘Cool. Get started.’ He said. (I’m paraphrasing for him, too.)
This got me thinking. It got me thinking, primarily, about the shitty rates I’ve been paid by newspapers and magazines over the years. It got me thinking that perhaps I should focus my energy away from journalism and towards being a corporate putzfuck (see previous post for hilarious layers). And not only that, but that I should also consider revisiting other areas within the writing industry, whatever the hell that is, where I’ve tried to make a living. Over the years I’ve tried to become a successful political speechwriter, scriptwriter and novelist and perhaps I should try these things again.
Here’s what happened before.
1. Political Speechwriter
Sometime in 2009 I received a phone call. ‘Fly to New York tomorrow,’ it went. ‘Then fly to the Caribbean. We want you to write speeches for politicians.’ So, the following day I flew to New York and then the Caribbean. Along the way I picked up a book called something like, ‘Greatest Speeches of the 20th Century’ and read the whole thing. The first speech I wrote took less than an hour and was called ‘Let Me Tell You About Change.’ The candidate who I wrote it for looked to be a no-hoper, but ended up winning the seat in the election. I had to record the speech to check the length, and when I first read it aloud I was overcome and cried. It was that good. The next two speeches I wrote weren’t as good. Then I stole a computer and ran away. That wasn’t very good either. When I came back to London I saw a job advertised at the US Embassy for a speechwriter and I applied, but they said no.
A stolen computer, earlier
Either shortly before or shortly after stealing a computer and running away from the Caribbean, I was approached by two people who asked me to write a short film. They had the shell of an idea. They wanted me to fill that shell. We all got very excited (they had won a bunch of awards between them and had contacts with lots of money to invest; I was a brilliant thief) and talked about Cannes, Sundance, Oscars – stuff, essentially, that was no way going to happen. One evening I sat down and wrote the script. It was about two Arctic explorers who end up sabotaging each other. A comedy. I called it ‘What More Do You Want Me To Give Up Now?’ which were apparently Ernest Shackleton’s last words. I asked them if they liked the title and they said no. They did, however, really like the script. They said it was sharp and funny. They said we would definitely get funding. We had a meeting and talked a lot about shots from a helicopter. We had another meeting, but I can’t remember what was said. Perhaps I was supposed to do something. Nothing else has happened with it since then. It’s only just occurred to me that we gave up on a project that had the words ‘give up’ in the title.
Ernest Shackleton, earlier
Eleven years ago, I hitchhiked from Bournemouth to Barcelona. Within five minutes I had my first lift, in a BMW. This is easy, I thought, there’s no way this can fuck up. A few days later I was in Paris stealing food from shops and eating out of bins. I tried to sleep on a roundabout one night, and car loads of people drove past and stared at me like I was demented. When I got to Barcelona I met two Italian girls at the ferry terminal. They gave me pasta and cigarettes. I alluded to being an eccentric millionaire and suggested that if they ever found themselves in Mallorca, they should come and stay in my mansion. A few days later they found themselves in Mallorca and they ended up sleeping in a disused sauna of a semi-abandoned tennis club. After they left, I started writing a novel. The novel was about the death of childhood. At one point it looked like it would get picked up by a publisher, but in the end they said no. A few years after that I began to write a novel about a psychopath who seduced women by telling them he was playing a young Stanley Kubrick in a biopic. Everyone said no to that. A month or so ago I started writing a novella and abandoned it.
Journalism it is, then.