Writing About Cars: Listen, this Blog is Cool, but…..

October 2, 2013 at 11:26 am

I haven’t really discussed this before, but I really need to find a way to write about cars, motorsports, and the hobby for a living. Like, a good, healthy living that doesn’t involve living hand-to-mouth and selling off my collection of mismatched BMW parts. A living that ensures the E30 receives the restoration it deserves and the M3 lives to see 250,000 miles on its original bottom end. That kind of living.

Long ago, I interviewed with Grassroots Motorsports magazine for a job as a reporter/writer. I was offered said job, which prompted a near nervous breakdown of deciding to invest in what I saw as a valuable relationship, or throwing caution to the wind (and said relationship) and moving to Florida to essentially live at Daytona. Did I mention that I would later be fired from the job I was considering giving the gigantic middle finger to while I relocated to Daytona Beach in the middle of a vicious New England winter? Yes, that happened. But the pay was low – really low – and I believed the relationship I had found was far more significant than the opportunity presented by the editorial staff. This decision was validated by my marriage not two weeks ago to an absolutely wonderful woman, but the scars of regret haven’t fully healed.

So what do you do? Well, if you’re like me, you dust off your Linkedin profile and see who might know who in the automotive world. You discover that a native Rhode Islander – right down the road, in fact – is a PR consultant for Porsche’s North American Motorsports team. You get him on the phone, in which he proceeds to tell you that the industry is a barren wasteland and that you better really enjoy making just enough to cover travel expenses while never earning what’s needed to support that restoration three years in the works for your 1987 325is. I don’t doubt the man, but in my phone-call fantasy, he was supposed to tell me he needed an extra set of hands to punch out press releases, set up interviews, and travel to Road Atlanta in a support role. Mere table scraps, and I’d take them. Truth be told, even table scraps are hard to come by, according to him. I’m a realist, but that was hard to digest.

And then you do the sit and wait thing, where you feel like a drug addict coming off of buzzy highs and hope-swallowing lows. After discovering a potential connection worked for one of the major media conglomerates with multiple automotive properties, I sent him my resume at his urging. Grateful, I am, but the excitement of this close connection was quickly subdued by the realization that my information is a mere email – a speck – in a inbox that is as vast as the universe itself, with unknown depths and myriad possibilities for when, if ever, my deets are viewed.  I’m not naive. I hate entitlements. Don’t feel like my profile deserves viewing any more or less than the next guy. But holy God, getting noticed and having a conversation seems like its light-years away after witnessing the effort involved in just finding someone with an email address that doesn’t begin with “info@…..” True, it’s half the battle – and for that, I am grateful – but when most of your mojo is locked up until an in-person meeting is proposed, you begin to understand how a third-string quarterback might feel. If you gave me the ball, you might just see that I can chuck that thing out of the stadium. Sure, my face will get stomped on a few times. But until you get that chance, how will anyone know?

I love writing. I do. I believe I’m good at it. That’s not to say a trip to J-School isn’t required, but I’d be willing to make that leap if someone gave me a sign that the investment is worth it, and that my life won’t turn into that of a starving artist. I look at why my subscription to Car & Driver will never lapse, and that’s because I love reading the columns penned by John Phillips and Peter Egan. Good writing does sell products, and I am hungry to prove my worth at any number of publications. I’m not picky. I’ll bring my own computer, and jump on a plane without hesitation. You want me reviewing a Nissan Versa in South Dakota? Done. Analyzing vinyl seating surface durability in New York City cabs after years of carting millions of gross, disgusting asses? Where are my latex gloves? Interview members of the Green Party about their hatred of horsepower? Heck, I’ll even wear a Prius button just to set the mood.

I’m sure there are thousands of gearheads and writers who would answer yes to those questions as well. But you’ve got to respect the guy who came up with them in the first place.