Writer/producer/creator Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon A Time) wrote an article recently titled, Is TV Writing The Best Job Ever? It caught my eye. A lot of people envy those in the entertainment industry simply because of who they get to rub elbows with, but is the job all it’s cracked up to be?
According to Espenson, it is.
So it got me thinking about my own job and how much I enjoy it. Not everyone can say that. I’ve had to good fortune to evolve my career in such a way that I’m now writing full time about comics and pop-culture. Sometimes I still thank my lucky stars for that.
Now some people may see this as bragging, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but really it’s to let those reading know it is possible. I get asked about it in interviews all the time, I have folks sending me personal messages asking how I did it, how I got to where I am today and if I think they can too. The answer I always give is yes, but like everything in life, it won’t come easy or naturally.
I was in radio before I wound up writing online but before that I was in school for journalism. I wanted to write, I wanted to report on the news. At that time I didn’t have an exact idea where I wanted to channel that energy but landing the radio gig right out of college derailed it for a while. It wasn’t until I started reading comics that I decided to get myself back into the practice of writing by starting a blog. “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” didn’t start out as a source for social change or the first step to a career in comic journalism; it started as practice and fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing in those early days. I was sharing my opinion and giving out information but I was also learning along the way. I also met a lot of great people that way, some mentors, some who were simply friends. When I attended my first convention I decided to take it up a notch but actually reporting on the events like I would have for a newspaper. I added in my personal accounts and flair of course because I knew by that time, that’s what people wanted to read about. People who couldn’t attend wanted to feel like they were there and that’s what I hoped to achieve. Turns out I did achieve that goal. It was that report that led to my first paying comics gig.
I would never tell anyone to go back to school in order to do what I’m doing (people wind up with successful careers whether they went to school for it or not) but if you’re already there or soon-to-be and this is what you want to do, then study writing and journalism. It can only help you. It certainly helped me. A few years later, I’ve written for several popular and respected websites and have been writing for this one in particular for almost two years. In addition, I’m now an Associate Editor at The Mary Sue, a site devoted to geek girl culture, and I couldn’t be happier.
That was actually another not-intended result from deciding to write about comics. I became a voice for a segment of comic reading women. My aim when writing is to write for everyone, I don’t want to unnecessarily limit my audience. I don’t consider myself a feminist, (though others often refer to me as such), I simply called them like I see them. When things happened that I disagree with, I make my voice known. And women (and men) appreciated that. Why? It just so happened that there were a lot of them out there feeling the same way I was. Not everyone agrees with my take on things, women are not a hive mind contrary to popular belief, but starting the dialogue is what’s important. Talking about things is how you bring about change and that is one thing I’ll never stop doing. That is how I got to the happy place I am today, after all, and while I didn’t set out to be a voice of social change, I’m proud to help do it.
But like Espenson says in her piece, there is a downside. When you make a mistake in your work, people will tell you you’re wrong. Publicly. They think it’s their sworn (unpaid) duty to correct everyone on the internet. Now, if I have a fact wrong in my articles, I’m grateful for someone correcting me so I can in turn correct my article. But not everyone leaves it at that. People have a tendency to tell me I’m wrong even when I’m giving my opinions, like I do weekly in this column. They forget that disagreeing is not the same as being right or wrong.
And yes, some will trash you just to trash you. Like internet trolls, it’s an occupational hazard and more times then not, those two segments overlap. Do you need a thick skin to be in any portion of the entertainment industry? Absolutely. You’ll always hear criticisms but that shouldn’t detract from what you’re trying to do. I compare little internet annoyances like this to the buzzing of flies. Irritating at times but truly nothing in the scheme of things, especially not when I’m busy doing my job that causes them to act that way to begin with. So yeah, you have to learn to ignore that. It takes practice but you won’t get far if you can’t.
Yes, I love what I do. I write about things I enjoy and get paid for it. I get to meet new people, creators I admire and read comics for both pleasure and work (this is where those detractors will say I’m bragging). I won’t go as far as Espenson and say my job is the best job ever because that’s all personal judgment, but it is pretty sweet. (And I still have goals that take me even further than I am now so I want to leave room for that kind of talk later.) It sounds cliché but if you want to do it, put the work in and dedicate yourself to it. I did and it brought me to a great place in my life.
Read more of Jill’s columns at the Hey, That’s My Cape! topic page!