Columbia Journalism Review: Edit tests are out of control, say journalists in search of jobs

“IN THE SPRING OF 2015, GQ asked freelance writer and editor Beejoli Shah to produce a four-page front-of-book section for the magazine. She was responsible for conceiving every element, from lists to profiles to Q&As, and naming writers she thought would be right to tackle each piece. She had two days to do it, although it usually takes editors several weeks. And she would not be paid.”

Take a Break from Social Media

Life is suffering.”

It seems to be a fundamental truth. From war, natural disasters, crime, illness, and even to the seemingly lesser stresses like too many work hours and not enough pay, or time to live, the suffering can feel never-ending with the aid of social media and television.

However, it’s important to know what is going on in the world, as painful as it is. Even when you cannot do anything about it, and when it does not directly affect you, being aware of what is happening in the world helps you understand life and your place in it–your contribution.

Personally, I also believe in other philosophical and spiritual reasons for being “woke,” as they say, but that’s a much longer discussion.

Having said all that, we must take care of ourselves and being woke can come at a personal price. Sometimes the goings-on of the world simply cause too much extra stress.

I recently did what a lot of people threaten to do, but have a hard time accomplishing: I took a break from social media.

I left Facebook, Twitter, my website, and I refused to watch or read the news for nearly one month. I was stressed with some changes in my life, with money problems and work-related issues, and I realized that waking up and reading the news was only hurting me. It broke my heart over and over, and make my days even worse because I seemed unable to avoid internalizing it. So, I took a vacation from the rest of the world.

There is nothing wrong with taking a break from it–taking a break from the news, from social media drama, whatever its form.

You might ask, “But, wouldn’t it just be selfish to stop paying attention merely because it stresses you out?”

I argue that it’s not so simple.

We all want to do more that survive this life. We all want to really live–to find more than suffering. Some of us are lucky enough–are born or placed into the right circumstances to find it. Many are not.

There is no shame in being either person.

Should you completely close yourself off from the world permanently, and think only of yourself and your own happiness? No, of course not. There must be a healthy balance between your happiness and your concern for the world’s suffering.

Some people simply do not have that option. They can’t just turn off the news and let go because their lives are the news. They haven’t been given the option, and that’s horrifically unfair.

But, that doesn’t mean that it is wrong for you to choose.

I encourage you to try. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. Try a day, or a week–as much as you think you can handle. Sometimes it is hard to let go, and some people’s jobs insist on the use of social media, which cannot be helped. If you can, however, give yourself a break.

You’re human–you deserve it.

What They Don’t Tell You About Crowdfunding

If you’ve been here before, you know I recently began a crowdfunding campaign.

(“If you’ve been here before,” is actually very, very relevant, because needing a large social circle beforehand is one of the things that many supporters of crowdfunding don’t tell you.)

But, I’ll get to that later.

I spent some time preparing. I did some research. I launched. Almost immediately, that hope that I had, even though it wasn’t high to begin with, became really hard to hold on to. Crowdfunding can be a great thing, but taking advantage of this potentially exciting system is an idea that a whole lot of other people have. Here are some things I’m learning that I hope will help you figure things out before you jump in:


  • Friends and Family: You reach out to your closest first and ask them to get the word out. That’s sure to make at least a small wave, right? Well…not always. No matter how much your friends and family love you, really contributing to your campaign takes time and effort, and let’s face it, most of us are only going to do the bare minimum, if anything at all. It’s hard not to feel hurt by this, but it’s important not to get upset or judge them when they show little interest and don’t contribute. Money and time are important, and you know this. That is, after all, why you started the campaign in the first place.


  • Spend Money to Make Money: I kind of knew this going in. What I didn’t expect, was the slew of advertisers that would promise me more views on my Kickstarter by tweeting and submitting to social media. When you’re first starting out, those things seem exciting. Then, you realize that those hundreds of thousands of followers to whom they are tweeting are not actually interested parties; they’re other people doing the exact same thing  you are. Whoops. So, you may get some extra views, but don’t hold your breath waiting for funding, because they’re in the same boat as you; they need money, too. What’s worse is that some of these PR packages that promise even more come at high costs. “Starting at only $99!” First of all, that’s a lot to someone who basically lives paycheck to paycheck. Second, it’s important to pay attention to that word “starting.” You get the bare minimum, which is sometimes basically nothing, just a “consultation.” If you want the full package, you could find yourself facing hundreds of additional dollars. Unless you’re a startup that has a nice chunk of money set aside for PR, getting the word out beyond your tiny universe is going to be tough. Also watch out for those that claim they’ll reach out to thousands of Facebook groups. A lot of Facebook groups don’t even allow marketing on their pages, and I probably don’t need to tell you about how many articles there are on Facebook ads being CPC scams. My ultimate point is this: if you’re just a wee little person, with a wee little project like me that needs a pretty big chunk of money, the costs of crowdfunding may just be a little too expensive.


  • Time is Money: I knew I would have to spend some time every day working on getting my project out there. What I didn’t realize was that because of the aforementioned things, if I really wanted to get out there, it was going to take much more time than I have. I have a full-time job and freelance work, in addition to a life with a significant other and projects I pursue out of passion. The novel I’m trying to fund is one of them, but I can’t sacrifice everything to have a shot (in hell, as it may turn out) of funding. You see, even if you pay for more tweets, or for a press release and some PR, for someone with a tiny-to-non-existant budget and social circle, that isn’t really enough (again, for the reasons I mentioned earlier). If you can’t afford a lot of outreach, you’ll have to do it yourself, and true outreach takes a lot of time. And, chances are, small passion projects with no budget won’t be featured in online magazines and popular YouTube channels, no matter how many people you pester. There are simply too many of us out there.


  • It’s a Technological Entrepreneur’s World: Crowdfunding has helped many different kinds of people. But, for the most part, entrepreneurs with interesting new gadgets and apps are what backers want. We’ve seen films get funded, but most of them were by, or affiliated with known filmmakers in circles big enough to get the word out. Currently published authors have a decent shot, too. But for most of the other 90-something percent of us out there, we’re just not what they’re looking for. Like it or not, people want to back the next big, money making gadget. Our first novels, research, ill family members, sick pets, or mortgages don’t have the allure of being part of a future big business with big payouts.


Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not bitter and anti-crowdfunding. I’m going to see my campaign through, but through a more realistic lens. If it fails, will I try again? I honestly have no idea. I don’t see myself having the money and time to afford it in the near future.

It’s just that there is a lot of “advice for a successful crowdfunding campaign” out there, and a few “things to remember before beginning.” But, there isn’t much out there to tell you that it’s not for everyone, and even though certain crowdfunding websites boast millions of dollars in successful campaigns, it’s actually a pretty small percentage of campaigns that get fully funded. So, this is for the people like me, who have great ideas, projects, or personal needs, but who may not otherwise be warned about just how difficult a successful crowdfunding campaign really is.


Copyright © 2018 by Erin Dunbar