Shit I wrote this week.
Since I always forget to post what I write for RVA Mag on this tumblr, I’ve set a reminder on my phone that will go off every Saturday afternoon and remind me to post everything I wrote over the previous week. Let’s see if this at least is a routine I can stick to.
Let’s try some subheadings as well.
[EDIT: This went way longer than I planned for it to, and has a lot of discussion about process in it that may bore the pants off you. Feel free to skip, or just click on the links, or whatever.]
Stuff I’m actually proud of:
Review of Ryan Kent’s Poems For Dead People (1115 words): This is actually from late last week, but I did very little writing compared to my normal output this week, so fuck it, here’s this. Review of a local poet’s first book, which is really more like a chapbook. All of the poems in it are about dead people—sometimes people from Ryan’s personal life, sometimes famous people he never met. I liked this book quite a bit.
Weekly show preview column (2803 words): Every week I write about 8 shows happening over the next 7 days. I call them “must-see” shows and then I don’t get to more than 1 or 2 of them every other week. My job makes me tired, and a lot of times I feel like I need to come home and do more work just so I can keep up on my knowledge of the music scene enough to justify my position. Which pays about as much as working fast food. Whee, my life rules.
Anyway, I generally think of these columns as running to about 2500 words, and they are by far the longest, most involved thing I write in any given week. What generally happens is, the night before I post the column, I make a tentative plan for what shows I’ll cover in the next week’s column, while at the same time finalizing the tentative plan for this week’s column, which I made the previous week. This usually involves conflicts with some nights, on which there might be as many as three different shows that might be appealing, and panic relating to other nights, on which there might not be ANY shows that seem worth going to. I generally am able to find at least one worthwhile show for every night, though. Then there’s a feature show that starts out every column, which is usually a second show from the busiest/most desirable night of the week. I figure out exactly which shows I’m putting in the column, and what position they’ll occupy, then I do all the tedious coding work for the article the night before. This takes up 2 to 3 hours of my Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, I write the actual column once I get to the office, and am usually done by 2 PM. The whole thing probably takes 7 hours of work per week.
The less-than-ideal results of the column’s format include the fact that it’s often physically impossible to attend every show I’ve recommended, simply because one show is happening at the same time as another; and the fact that there are sometimes just too many shows worth covering to fit them all in. In those situations, I tend to let some combination of novelty, my personal taste, and venue balance be my guide in picking which ones to spotlight. The undisputed best venue for live music in Richmond is Strange Matter, and every week there’s a temptation to make 5 or 6 of the 8 shows I cover be Strange Matter shows. Sometimes I can’t really avoid doing so, but I always try to spread things around as much as possible, and give some consideration to a club that’s only doing one good show rather than covering Strange Matter for the fifth time that week, or whatever. But it’s never a perfect situation, and I have gotten some small degree of flack a few times in the last few weeks for not covering particular shows.
Of course, when there is a truly worthy show that doesn’t fit into the show column format, I always try to preview that show in a separate article on the site, either by me or by a contributor/intern. Usually I’ve planned this kind of thing out way in advance, and already know which shows will get their own article, but that didn’t happen this week. Therefore, this article happened:
Teargas Rock reunion show preview (715 words): I was actually going to make this the feature show in this week’s show column, then realized as I was writing the text for it that I had too much to say about it. Plus, I’d been worried about what I was going to do for Wednesday, since I should really include both the DJ Abilities and Mouth Of The Architect shows, but also needed to include both the Teargas Rock and Way Shape Or Form shows on Friday night. Suddenly I realized that the key to solving both of these problems was to spin the Teargas Rock writeup off into its own article, make the DJ Abilities show the featured show in the show column, and use the Mouth Of the Architect and Way Shape Or Form shows as the regular shows for their respective days.
This simultaneously ruled and sucked, because I had solved my dilemmas about how to cover everything I wanted to cover by giving myself significantly more work to do at 11 AM on Wednesday. It was that late because I’d had personal life stuff going on on Tuesday night and hadn’t gotten the chance to devote three hours of my after-work time to the show column. I’d planned out what I wanted to cover in the column, but it wasn’t entirely finalized, and I’d had to spend the first hour and a half of my Wednesday morning doing coding for the article before I could even start writing it. Then, in the middle of writing the Teargas Rock thing, that became its own article, and I suddenly still had 8 two to three paragraph blurbs about other shows to write. I got through it all by 3 PM that day, but considering I wrote 3500 words from scratch in the space of about 4 and a half hours, I think it’s probably no surprise that I was exhausted by the time I was finished.
And just think, I do this at least one day a week—sometimes more! (This week was pretty light, as I mentioned before; check back with me in a couple weeks and you might see some even more ridiculous daily wordcount totals.)
Stuff I only wrote because it’s my job:
RVA Cabaret Mega Show preview/ticket giveaway (539 words): This is an article about a burlesque/vaudeville show that was happening Friday. I actually had free passes to go to it but didn’t realize it conflicted with the Teargas Rock show mentioned above, and I wasn’t gonna miss that. Anyway, this is the kind of article I have learned to put together from a couple sentences on a facebook event invite page, but this time I was fortunate to have a detailed press release with some quotes from the organizer, so what I came up with had a bit more meat to it. A bit. This is the kind of article I feel like I mostly construct from pretty words and airy hype. If it works to help promote the event, then it’s served it’s purpose, but I’m under no illusion that I’m doing anything more than copywriting on posts like this.
Ticket giveaway for Bob Mould at the 9:30 Club next week (352 words): It’d be unfair to call this more glorified copywriting, because I sincerely love Bob Mould’s music and I did a good bit to try and explain why in this article. However, at the end of the day these giveaway posts follow a pretty strict format, and I’m lucky they do because that format makes it much easier for me to just plug in a few details and crank ‘em out. I don’t really have the time for much more. I think I wrote this in 45 minutes, though it’s tough to really say because our website kept crashing over and over, and it took at least three tries to get this one posted.
New video by Richmond hip hop artist Noah O (193 words): You might’ve seen this guy on the MTV Jams network in 2012 with his video "I Got It." It got some decent play, but he didn’t have any sort of record deal at that point and the video didn’t help him get one. He’s basically on the same level as any of the dozen or so other guys on the top tier of the Richmond hip hop scene, and I feel like none of them really know how to get farther than they’ve gotten. It’s sad, because there are some really good rappers in this town, but no one’s looking at us the way they’re looking at Chicago or wherever, so even when a dude has some random success, it’s hard to know how to capitalize on it. Anyway, Noah O didn’t let that get him down, and he self-released a new album earlier this year that’s better than anything else he’s done. This is a song from that record, and the video’s pretty cool, so I did a brief post about it. I’m down with what Noah’s doing, but I would be lying if I said that something like this comes to me as anything other than a relieved feeling of “Oh good, there’s one more thing I can post online today to get me closer to my daily quota.”
This is what getting paid to do online journalism is like in 2014, kids. For better or for worse.
(And I haven’t even talked about all the editing and coding of other people’s articles I have to do on a daily basis… or the 100-150 emails I get and have to process every day in order to keep up.)
EDIT #2: Oh look, I forgot one. Shows how much I cared about this one, doesn’t it?
Preview for local bar’s 8th anniversary party (252 words): This is something I wrote entirely because the DJs doing this party are cool guys who spin good music and because the owner of the magazine is close personal friends with the owner of the bar in question. So I get the word, “Hey, can you post a preview of this event?” Yeah, sure I can. Again: copywriting. It is what it is.