I have five months left in Santa Barbara, which means five months left of not having to/being prevented from seriously using my actual skills. Despite understanding all along I would eventually need to live in some sort of major metropolitan area — Santa Barbara serves 18- and 65-year-olds fairly well, but those in-between and ambitious get the shaft — I think I once assumed that something would “carry” me out, as if by force: the frenzied momentum of The Marketplace of Ideas, probably, or maybe the enormous, hopelessly addicted audience of this very blog. Constantly flying out to negotiate the pileup of radio-, book-, and speaking-related contracts feverishly offered me would, by something like May 2008, mean that I effectively would live outside Santa Barbara. Citizen of the world.
Yes, this town has pretty sweet-deal weather — though having grown up around Seattle, I could use more rain — but as far as opportunities to create things, you can only imagine its bone-dryness. People make all kinds of unreasonable concessions to live here and bask in its small-town beachside glory, including but not limited to (a) remaining unknown, (b) making no money, and (c) making that money by burning huge chunks of their lives meaninglessly turning cranks at one of the region’s few large employers. “Hey, you should feel lucky to have a job at all,” those who complain often hear back, “in this economy.” But as tentative exploration suggests that, apart from a couple freak hirings, I am not traditionally employable, I exempt myself from that withering admonishment.
So come September, down the road to L.A. with me to live by my crafts. Which of my skills do I count as actual? Broadly speaking, broadcasting, writing, and filmmaking. More accurately speaking, broadcasting interviews about eighties pop music and avant-garde novels, writing essays about Yasujirō Ozu and parodies of The Book of Disquiet, and making Super 8 films loosely based on the work of Jorge Luis Borges. I foresee a rich, rewarding unification of life and career ahead.
Arguments for broadcasting: suite of sub-skills required remain relatively rare; years of hosting/producing experience already racked up; little competition in subject areas of interest; undying attraction to the medium rooted, no doubt, somewhere deep in childhood.
Arguments against broadcasting: scarcity of existing venues for interesting content, at least on terrestrial radio; even greater profusion of distracting nonsense in venues other than terrestrial radio; public radio’s moaning (exaggerated or not) implying imminent demise; belief that “I will make it in broadcasting” requires self-esteem.
Arguments for writing: have honed writing skills since single-digit age; have consumed, widely and repeatedly, a rich field of high-quality examples; sense heretofore unexplored possibilities in the book form even now; occasional indications that I might not suck.
Arguments against writing: unending woe of aspiring writers (“just look at the numbers”), though mostly from MFA types; landscape of currently published books a vast wasteland (possibly an advantage?); low barrier to entry causes extreme self-doubt; belief that “I will make it in writing” requires self-esteem.
Arguments for filmmaking: films and filmmakers remain the most exhilarating source of inspiration; have consumed, widely and repeatedly, a rich field of high-quality examples; film retains seemingly vast potential; medium barrier to entry causes only medium self-doubt; have made a “real” short without disaster.
Arguments against filmmaking: seemingly worsening quality of “profitable” films; in three months, people will watch all movies free on Bittorrent; have made a “real” short without result; belief that “I will make it in filmmaking ” requires self-esteem.
But I have no other skills, which renders the above irrelevant. I’ve determined that I’ll only need to make like $300 per week in L.A. to live. Should I turn to crime?