Writer’s Brock – “You can’t compete with free.”

The summer that I started writing seriously I lived in East Lansing, Michigan, taking a job there. It was the year 2000 and people were still paying just about anybody to do just about anything related to the Internet. With no experience or portfolio I walked into a project manager job at a firm that badly needed management. By firm, I mean a guy, some computers, and Applebee’s. My boss and leader had no office, so he held all business meetings at the Applebee’s near I-96 in Okemos. I met him there and he looked so legitimate – suited up. Nothing like the last time I saw him, when I had to drive halfway across Ingham County just to have him answer the door in a bathrobe and gym shorts so that I could finally get paid. He had a mustache and loved the phrase ASAP, pronouncing it like a word. While still in bed, I would take unexpected conference calls with upset people who I, rather than my boss, would have to appease. This fellow didn’t pay me a dime for the last six months of work I did for him before I quit in May of 2001 to go to a writer’s retreat. I remember thinking that it would always be easy to find and make money off of web design work. Unfortunately the internet wasn’t the goose that laid the golden egg. In the end it really wasn’t much of anything compared to how it was touted. I was billing for two to four times as much time as I was taking to do sites and I deserved it. Our parents had worked as hard as they did so that us kids could have a phantom economy that sucks money in from another dimension. It really seemed like it was going to stay that way ten years ago, when I quit working for Applebee’s by proxy. But what existed largely because everyone believed it did wasn’t believed in long, and I was left with minimal job skills and raging entitlement that I was owed easy white-collar work by birthright. I needed something easy to sustain myself while I would leave novels half-finished and run around telling everyone what a great writer I was. A decade on I still do web pages once in a while, and have infinitely more than the zero skills I had then. Of course I don’t make any money on the Internet but who does? You can’t compete with free.