My Mimeograph has a Uniform Resource Locator

A few weeks ago, I was applying to jobs the way some people send out submissions for publication: making a day of sorting, tweaking, e-mailing cover letters. I got a hit on a minimum wage temp position writing web copy for a university hospital. The hiring staff wanted to see writing samples, so I sent them links to several websites I’ve populated with content, all of which used the hippest jargon (capacity-building, deliverables, etc.), and for kicks, I included a link to my Bark posts. The top post would have shown a graph and discussed the ancient Greeks’ influence on pop songs. The response? “Unless you have professional writing samples, you shouldn’t apply to copywriter positions.” Really?

I’m not trying to kill myself for some low wage that wouldn’t even cover the gas to go to work, so instead of forming a rebuttal, I’ve been thinking about this response for a while. It had to be the blog that counted against me (though I doubt they read any more than the top post, and I was kind of surprised that something with a reference to an academic journal, a chart, and clearly-defined argument would have seemed unprofessional: I probably didn’t even cuss).  That people still don’t take blogs seriously seems a little weird to me, justified in some cases and unjustified in others. I’ve often thought of blogging as a modern-day form of pamphleteering. They vary in size, are controlled by the author, contribute to modern characteristics of American writing, are pretty damn cheap to publish, and often have a polemic chain-reaction of responses and rebuttals. But they tend to spread ideas, not necessarily great writing/literature. Here’s what George Orwell said about pamphleteering (replace pamphlet with blog):

“A good writer with something he passionately wanted to say — and the essence of pamphleteering is to have something you want to say now, to as many people as possible — would hesitate to cast it in pamphlet form, because he would hardly know how to set about getting it published, and would be doubtful whether the people he wanted to reach would ever read it. Probably he would water his idea down into a newspaper article or pad it out into a book. As a result by far the greater number of pamphlets are either written by lonely lunatics who publish at their own expense, or belong to the sub-world of the crank religions, or are issued by political parties. […] There have been a few good pamphlets in fairly recent years. D. H. Lawrence’s Pornography and Obscenity was one, Potocki de Montalk’s Snobbery with Violence was another, and some of Wyndham Lewis’s essays in The Enemy really come under this heading. […] When one considers how flexible a form the pamphlet is, and how badly some of the events of our time need documenting, this is a thing to be desired.” –Orwell, “Pamphlet Literature

So providing a link to blog entries probably wasn’t the best idea, but I wonder if I’d written a book, self-published, and called myself an author in that regard, would the response have been different? Is there still more respect for the book even though one doesn’t necessarily have to write the content that appears in, say, a Kindle ebook?

I was reading this article at the Guardian that shows some impressive stats. In 2010, about 2.8 million books were published in nontraditional formats versus 316,000 tangible, bound books. One author has already written 3,255 ebooks–and he appears to be writing his own books. Many of the authors, though, are just stealing content off of websites and republishing it as their own. Who knows? Maybe this blog is already excerpted in some book. Maybe somewhere I’m already an authority on writing while being as broke as the post office.

At least I can I say that I actually wrote all the things that I have written, even if it’s terribly unprofessional.

 

4 Comments

  • Seth Marlin says:

    I love their ironic use of that phrase “professional writing samples.” I think “professional writing sample,” I think “scholarly criticism.” And really, if you’re going to be putting out scholarly criticism, what makes them think you’re going to be applying from some minimum-wage copywriting position? This coming from a healthcare provider, I just think it goes to show the flat and stultified way in which most businesses view writing. Basically, if it’s not ad-copy, they don’t want it. That being said, I imagine they were looking more for people with a background in technical communication, but still, REALLY?

    Anyway, best of luck and keep plugging away. You’ll get there.

  • Marcus says:

    Way to stick to higher ground. Would’ve been easy to call them out for their inability to either A) understand that not all blogs are written by 15-year-old drama queens, or B) look at your other work.

  • Richard says:

    Maybe by professional they just meant you got paid for the writing. Perhaps you did, I don’t know, but most bloggers don’t.

  • amaris says:

    Yeah, they could have just looked at the list of websites I’d written, which was paid, professional, and exactly the same type of copy they were looking for. But, eh, c’est la vie. I might just scrape these comments and publish them on Kindle…

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