I’m staring at a blank computer screen right now, preparing to write, which is something I’ve done somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 times over the last 30 years.
This time, though, is different.
This time, there is no deadline to get this finished, which, I have to admit, puts a serious crimp in my motivation.
This time, I am not getting paid to write.
This time, I have no idea where I want to go with this, or really, what I want to say at all (which, if we’re being completely honest, was often the case in my previous writing life as well; fortunately, a coherent direction usually emerged eventually).
Point is, this piece of writing – if I finish it at all (and if you’re reading this, I suppose I did) – will be different from anything I’ve churned out in the last 30 years.
Because this story, or essay, or article, or whatever you want to call it, is the first thing I’ve composed as an unemployed writer since early summer 1988.
Unemployed writer. It’s a horribly unappealing two-word combination, sort of like bloodthirsty mosquito, or festering wound, or President Trump.
My last stretch of official unemployment, from college graduate to my first full-time job, lasted exactly two months. This one is at nine days – but already feels much, much longer.
It’s a bizarre and not-so-pleasant feeling getting out of bed in the morning and knowing your only “job” that day is, well, looking for a job. Especially in a field that, let’s face it, isn’t exactly overflowing with opportunities.
I’m hardly alone in this dilemma. This website was started, in large part, because a longtime former colleague found himself in this exact situation almost a year ago. Misery might love company, but that doesn’t make sharing it any less intimidating.
The prospect of starting over at 52 is, I’m not going to lie, a bit terrifying. And that’s assuming I find a place to start over. A future of “Do you want fries with that?” is not out of the question. But the purpose of this piece is not to beg for sympathy. Or a job. (Although if you’re offering, I’m listening.)
No, the purpose of this piece (I think I finally arrived at one!), is to point out that change is part of life, and after 30 years of working for the same chain of newspapers, maybe it was time for a change in mine.
Sure, it would have been wonderful to have left on my own terms, but in this business, in these times, that opportunity has become increasingly elusive. Change is good, they say. Or maybe I just read something along those lines inside a fortune cookie once. (Hey, I wonder if that’s a career opportunity – I mean, somebody’s got to write those things, right?)
Anyway, at the risk of spitting out any more clichés and dissuading any potential employers, let me wrap up by saying I have to believe things will work out for the best. Maybe not in newspapers, maybe not even in writing, reporting or editing (although if there’s something else I’m qualified to do, please tell me what it is), but somehow, somewhere, a new opportunity will arise.
In the meantime, you haven’t heard the last of me.
Because after 30 years as a professional writer, I’ve still got plenty to say … even if I’m not getting paid to say it.
Andy Vineberg is a former sports and features writer for the Bucks County Courier Times and Burlington County Times. He was editor of the papers’ teen Reality section for 17 years.