Take online courses in travel journalism and join a growing community of thousands of travel writers, photographers, and filmmakers at MatadorU.

The author in Colorado. Photo: Lau

Now’s the season for year-in-review features and ‘looking ahead’ pieces, the kinds of stories that would seem little more than exercises in banality were they not necessary somehow to our sense of time and place.

Music countdowns, say the “Top 209 songs of 2009,” are perfect examples. By what criteria can we reduce music (or writing, or even people themselves–Traveler of the YEAR!!) into some kind of zero sum game?

Still, it occurs to me that even if the subjects and formats are unoriginal, just stopping and taking time to remember is a very human and life affirming act.

The other day Klaus and Manuel, two raft guides at Lat42Patagonia, asked about what I did. When I told them I was a writer, they asked the default question down here, which (as it should be) is “do you write books?”

“It’s mostly stories and articles online,” I explained. “One day I’d like to collect them into a book though.”

Anyway, the conversation left me thinking about people’s perceptions of what a writer is in 2009, and now looking ahead to 2010. Here are a few notes:

1. Blogger vs. Writer ‘debate’

Don’t waste time posturing or defending or shit-talking anyone in this silly-ass argument. Being a writer (or whatever) in 2010 means getting paid to write what you want to write. Part of this (perhaps all of it) will mean blogging; part will be journalism, fiction, poetry, whatever shape your imagination and work takes.

2. You don’t have to write a book.

As proven by NomadicMatt , you don’t have be writing a book to still be a financially successful writer and get featured in the New York Times

3. If you write a book, you can publish it yourself.

This year, Cory Doctorow showed that you can self-publish your work, give it away for free, and still make money by offering a print on demand option.

4. However, If all you want is to see your name in print, there are plenty of vanity-press operations ready to take your money.

Consider the move by Harlequin earlier this year wherein they began charging writers thousands to self-publish via their imprint.

5. You can make an enormous impact with simple ebook.

Earlier this month, Seth Godin’s ebook What Matters Now became a Trending Topic on Twitter, getting retweeted over 4,000 times.


6. Independent Publishing Houses

Writers seeking traditional book publication in 2010 will increasingly look to independent publishing houses.

7. Writing conferences will focus on social media.

Those attending conferences in 2010 will be bludgeoned by social media ‘gurus’ with pie graphs showing the correlation between your followers on twitter and your potential readership.

8. New forms

Hint Fiction, Micro-Notes, Segmented Essays, and other new forms of writing will become increasingly common, as writing continues to be optimized for reading on screens.

9. Multimedia

Writing / publishing / reading via mobile devices will lead to more experimentation with multimedia.

10. Real-time composition

New technology such as Google Wave combined with back-channel conversations being an increasingly important element of media events will mean that writers and journalists in 2010 will publish more work created in “real-time” as opposed to the the traditional process of drafts which are polished and edited before publication.

11. Revitalization of tribes

The democratization of media / disbanding of large publications will lead to writers building new communities in 2010. These include both official communities which exist online such as Fictionaut, SixSentences, or Matador, or just crews of writers who are associated with one another (via collective projects or similar styles), and thus can help mutually promote their work, such as the crew who runs HTML Giant.

12. Continuing Education

Looking beyond grad school and MFA programs, writers in 2010 will find increasingly relevant training and skills via online writing programs and learning centers.

13. Transparency

Whereas writers have traditionally had to make ethical choices when writing about places or stories to which they had material connections, writers in 2010 are essentially free to write about whatever they want, take whatever story they want, as long as their writing has an underpinning of material transparency.

14. Self Promotion

Although many writers may claim they didn’t go to journalism school to “sell themselves,” writers in 2010 need to find how they can best promote their personal brands.

*Get access to paid freelance travel writing opportunities and an active community of travel journalists by enrolling in the MatadorU Travel Writing program.