Free No More

February 6, 2012 · Posted in Journalism & TV, Work 

So, I just pressed “Send” on my last freelance journalist article in the foreseeable future.  Oh, I’ll keep writing a game review now and then, since that’s mostly fun, but for now I’m going to devote my free time to writing fiction, coding interactive fiction, learning how to draw, and other artistic stuff I’ve been putting off or trying to squeeze into my schedule during the last decade and a change.

Oh, I know, I said this a couple of years back, but – heh – this time I mean it. Back then I was still facing the surprising costs and troubles of putting down a company, since those fuckers seem to pop up like zombies to rip another pound of flesh and few hundred euros out of you years after they should be dead. I was also looking at a couple of rather chaotic years, where I was forced to cover some rather surprising, annoying or downright infuriating financial situations with extra freelance work.

From where I’m standing now, for the first time ever the future looks like there just might be some smooth sailing for some time. I’ve paid off most of my debts, there is no weird vortex of insanity ahead, and my brain has bursting for quite some time to do art, or at least stuff that looks like art if you squeeze your eyes just right. I have the novel draft to rewrite, I have several game projects to be finished and about six short stories bubbling and demanding to be let out. Also, the publishing house that has been my biggest client pulled again one of the “no lube and no flowers” things they periodically do, which was a nice excuse to call it quits now.

The freelance journalist gig was an interesting one, though, and in many ways a very intense learning experience. I started it in 2000 by writing game reviews, and quickly graduated to writing tech-related lifestyle stuff, technology and gadget reviews, hardware tests, articles for science magazines, stuff for customer magazines and newsletters, general interest stuff, material for adult entertainment magazines, and what have you. In addition to that I did freelance translation, IT customer service, and localization and miscellaneous IT jobs either as a freelance or on salary. At the busiest of times I had constantly something like six assignments from six different clients each to juggle at the same time. At times the money was quite good, but it came with the cost of very very scarce free time.

The journalism gig has taught me hell of a lot, the foremost being the ability to say “yes, I can write about that”, and then having a week to study the phenomenon, issue, device or system and learn it well enough to explain it to other newbies. To explain something in an easy way, you really need to understand it yourself. Also, with the amount of clients and assignments I had, organizational skills were a must. I enjoyed having a huge amount of work which I could chop, slap and fold into a nice schedule. I didn’t even realize that was a skill until I saw some really disorganized people trying to figure out how to do two assignments at the same time – and in time.

But, above all, journalism fed my inquisitive mind with new information which I had to learn constantly. Especially the articles for the science magazines were usually a treat to write, and I certainly would have liked to do more of that from a more varied selection of subjects. Then there was the whole adult entertainment thing, which lead to some rather interesting work days – like waking up horribly hangoverish, crashing on the sofa wearing a dressing gown and spending the morning watching porn from a cellphone. This was something like seven years ago, so you can guess the video quality. What is really interesting is that in my experience even small adult entertainment companies pay better and especially more reliably than the largest publishing houses in Finland.

Freelance journalism has been an integral part of my life for about a third of it, so right now I’m feeling a bit weird and wistful. Well, actually I wrote my first published article when I was 15, in 1990, for the Challenge magazine, I was an active contributor to our Astronomy club Jyväskylän Sirius’ magazine, and wrote a few pieces to publications like Magus and Larppaaja (not to mention being the editor in chief of Vappukääpiö, but the less said…). I’m not under an illusion that this really was my last article ever, and I really don’t even want it to be. I’ll just need a hiatus right now, and later to focus on other areas of journalism apart from tech and gadgets. I certainly wouldn’t hate writing about travel or politics, for example, and if a chance for an one-off gig like this appears, I’ll probably bite. BUT, only if it’s writing for the fun of it for me, not to make a living.

But we will see. Now I’m going to enjoy my interesting and rewarding job as a media coordinator in Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture. I’m covering a very interesting project called 365 Wellbeing, surrounded by creative people in a building that’s full of workshops ranging from metal, wood shop and textile shops to industrial design, drawing & painting studios and a set design shop. Also, I have a private work room in the 8th floor, with the only sound being the zen hum of the air conditioner. There’s a view over the sea,  in the morning the sun hits the windows, and in the evenings I can see it reflecting from the buildings on the other side of a small strait. When I leave the work room, I’m usually headed to a very interesting workshop, exhibition or other such thing, that gives me a chance to learn again something new, and to see the world in a different light.

Life is so good right now that there must be a badly secured piano dangling somewhere, just waiting for me to step under it.

The morning light in my new work room.




Leave a Reply