that a “regular job” along with a predictable paycheck would make my life less precarious
and I headed into full-time academic career after teaching adjunct for years.
The irony of course was that here I was preparing students for jobs that did not exist and
ultimately knew that they would be creating their own if they were to succeed in this
transient industry. This is something that schools do not necessarily want to convey; that it
is easier to teach and learn the skills than it is to secure the work. The reality is that
students should be prepared to enter many work style configurations including freelance
and full-time work – and possibly even at the same time.
Now I am in academia, where the price of admission is a doctorate, and while teaching I
was working on my dissertation. It almost felt like a privileged position until I had to go up
for tenure and promotion a few months shy of completing my dissertation. With the
economy at loose ends, I did not receive an extension and had a reprieve of one year to
complete my PhD, teach four classes a semester, and job hunt. In a coincidental way, this
perhaps allowed me to identify more with the plate-spinning skills required of a freelancer
where they are looking for the next gig while working. However, freelancers do not have
the critical backup of unemployment or advance notice of when a job is going to end.
I discovered that when writing the multiple stories of these talented and adaptive workers,
they gave me hope that not only would I survive – but thrive. No, their lives were not
perfect because of the economic downturn but they were doing better than most people
and their careers were interesting. Their work histories conveyed a story of struggle but
also demonstrated amazing inventiveness, adaptation in spite of decreased wages and
increased time constraints. I was impressed with all the participants’ improvisational skills.
Reading The Migrant Creative
This dissertation, The Migrant Creative: U.S. Media Freelancers at the Border of a
Changing Work Culture is a behind-the-scenes story examining the lifestyle of freelancers
who often toil anonymously as “cultural farmers” (Holland Wilde), sometimes without
ownership rights, entering and moving across diverse cultural or geographic domains and
hence the term “migrant creative.” The freelancers, with an untethered work style, live off
the media landscape grid and move to the next watering hole. You can read about their
journeys and their landscape by reading the Micro Narratives and the Macro Narratives