Opportunities Are Bullshit
What Ellison says is that anytime he has done anything for “exposure,” he has totally wasted his time. I couldn’t agree more.
Sometimes “opportunities” are presented to us. A chance to get our work exposed. People will see. It’ll make a difference. We’ll advance the brand.
Almost every opportunity I’ve been exposed to (not all, be it said) is an opportunity for the promoter, not for me. I’m expendable. I’m interchangeable. It’s like that Jerry Seinfeld joke about bridegrooms always dressing in tuxedos. Why? Because one is the same as another.
But I don’t mean to be uncharitable. The blame in these “opportunities” lies not with the conference organizer or the radio host or the tour promoter. The fault resides with me, for rising to the bait.
Looking back over a long career in a number of fields of writing, if I ask myself, “Steve, when did your work get its most efficient exposure?,” it was when I did absolutely nothing and the work spoke for itself.
Why is that? It seems so unprofessional. So counter-intuitive. Is there some law of Inverse Effort, which states that if you try hard to achieve some effect, you will accomplish either nothing or the precise opposite of what you desire?
Maybe it’s a different law, the Law of Desperation, which declares that the more you need something to happen, the more that need is communicated to others and the more they will recoil from that need.
I know this: I feel bad when I pimp my wares.
My colon contracts. Bile ascends in my gorge. I hate myself and I hate everyone attached to the effort.
Yet that insidious voice keeps whispering. “But this is an opportunity, man! You gotta network. Get out there! Everybody promotes their stuff. Be a pro. Seize the moment, dude!”
One way to look at it is through the prism of money. If someone wants you to do something and the remuneration is “exposure” or “opportunity” … you have answered your own question.
I know, I know. Sometimes you gotta get a seat at the table. I can tell you this: in the movie biz, I’ve given more free options than I can remember. How many have paid off?
I won’t answer except to say that the word has four letters, starts with a “z” and ends with an “o.”
My friend and mentor David Leddick has an axiom: “Don’t chase after someone who should be chasing after you.”
He’s right. Harlan Ellison is right. Josh Olson is right. You can do it if you want to. It’s experience. You meet people. You see things. Maybe there’s a payoff somewhere.
All I can say is I haven’t found it, and I’ve been looking for a long time.