A little over a month ago, I got some pretty startling news: the Creators program would be shutting its doors, and soon after, the rest of MoviePilot would be reassessing its future. This was a difficult blow: I had just shot my editor a couple of wild new ideas on article pitches, I had a few more sure-fire ideas down the pipeline, I was excited to complete my #30in30 project and prove I could keep a semi-consistent writing schedule between a full-time job and several part-time gigs, and I was going to keep all that momentum snowballing into a powerful 2018 as my first full year as a professional writer.
Well, so much for that plan.
In the middle of my day teaching my Highly Gifted students, I got a buzz on my phone: that dreaded message, both via email and a Facebook post from our admins that all the technical glitches and slows in the process were signalling something bigger. A halt to our freelancing. It was a gut-punch after wrapping with some of my favorite kids. This was a project I took real pride in. I publish my Creators.co link on my personal Facebook page. I bring up my writing as cocktail conversation, and it actively gets people invested in that side of me. I've used my articles as examples with my students of how their work can be used in the real world, and how to apply the various skills and styles the district wants them to learn. Getting a real, paid position with a well-known website was a huge confidence booster for me, so losing it was like having my guts torn out.
But as I've preached before in my articles, this doesn't have to be a moment of darkness. This doesn't have to be an end for us. Let's take a moment to step back and look at all the good that's come from this beautiful opportunity with a wonderful site.
1. Creators.Co Gave Us a Community
This probably isn't as apparent to those on the outside, but to those of us on the writing crew, you know what I'm talking about. The Verified Creators squad, and even the various groups for training to get Verified and Masterclass were a great place to go to get to know other high-caliber writers and to bounce ideas off of one another. You were always welcomed by the rest of the community, and there was never a sense of toxicity, at least as long as I've been a part of it. The Slack chats were a blast, and the successes of our members were championed and shared by everyone.
What's more, being on the Creators team didn't just give me support, it gave me peers. I don't say this to sound high and mighty, but when I've worked on other websites, I've had a hard time finding my place. When you're working with start-ups and "writing for experience," you often will find yourself rising to the top, especially when you have natural talent and/or formal training. But with MoviePilot and Creators, I constantly felt embroiled and emboldened by my fellow writers. I remember in the first round of competitions, biting my nails watching the readership for the various #InDefenseOf pitches. I would talk to my friends daily and say, "I'm really proud of my Blade article, but damn, I think that Spider-Man one is gonna kill me!" Or when #LessonsLearned came around and I read my fellow entrants from there, I could feel that the stakes were high for me and Ms. Kujo. But that's not a slight - I loved every minute of it, knowing that'd I'd have to push myself to perform, to do better than I had before, and to have a chance to learn something from the other writers! It's a gift everyone on the site gave me that I couldn't have gotten by just sitting in my own little microcosm on my blog.
2. Creators.Co Showed Us Our Value
When Paul first sought me out in June of this year, I thought he was a hoax. I'd just come off of a crappy little site that was "paying in exposure" and wasn't about to do that again when he messaged me on my little nobody Wordpress blog. So I grilled him hard when we started emailing about the possibility of me signing up with Creators as an author, and made sure that he gave me all the specs, and helped me fast-track to Verification.
Knowing that someone could find me, out of all the writers in the vastness of the web, and say, "This guy's got talent, and I want to pay him for it!" is an amazing feeling. And it's not one I'm about to give up, nor should any of my fellows. You've reached a checkpoint, my friends, so please don't go falling back just on the thought that you need to keep writing. I felt the tug after watching a Jim Sterling video about games journalists being choked for cash last year, and that's what pushed me to just write on my own, serve no one but myself until the price was right. And I urge you all to do the same. You were already paid once for your work, so why expect anything less? You don't need "exposure," and anyone who sees you on another person's site as a credit is more likely to say, "Eh, they've got a job writing, I won't bother," than if you were flying solo and promoting, "I'M AVAILABLE AND CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR MONEY!"
Get out there and show 'em you know your worth, Creators!
3. Creators.Co Gave Us Fantastic Talent
If I haven't already, allow me to indulge a little bit more on the personal side, as I shout out to the fantastic editing team behind the Creators brand. Julian worked tirelessly for months, even scouring some of my most niche pieces, trying to maximize their appeal and potential. Even as the leading face of the team, it's clear how he got his position and how he stays there: the guy is diligent as the day is long, persistent as a bloodhound, and powered by a heart of gold. I can't tell you how many times I opened up to Julian about a personal issue going on or just flat-out word-jumbled my way through trying to explain an article fix to him, and he responded with the utmost patience, always caring about my health and my art above the bottom dollar. If every editor I ever have could be at his caliber, I'd tell you right now, I'd secure my position as a full-time freelancer in a heartbeat.
Then there's Nicole. Gosh, she came late to the game, but what she did for me was phenomenal. Kicking both the Blade and Rick and Morty articles into high gear in short order, while also giving that same passion to my Jojo's articles, despite a lack of background: how many people can claim that? She was always insightful and equally ready to meet me head-on. She has a knack for understanding a writer's voice and what's important to them about their style, and works tirelessly to uphold the most vital aspects of these while also maximizing the potential of the work, overall. She's a brilliant editor and a fighter in all the best ways, and losing her cutting eye will be a severe detriment to my work (as can be seen by this outpouring - which will be at least 30% longer than it needs to be. Sorry, Nicole!).
And then there's Claire, a member of the California team I'm sad to say I met all too late. Her eleventh-hour grab of my Thor: Ragnarok article was completely blindsiding, but a boon like none other! She and her crew not only bolstered me to fix the fanboy-isms, but re-focused the images, cut down my verbosity, and even gave me my first Facebook promotion: a monumental boon I only wish I could have witnessed the fruits of first-hand (stupid reader count glitch!).
There were countless other team members I worked with throughout the course of my short six months at Creators, but I don't have time to rave about all of them. I love you all for lifting up my work and keeping me going, even as my stupid fears tried to take over - you guys are the real heroes, here!
4. Creators.Co Shows Us The Conversation Continues
All of this is to say that nothing truly ends here. While the site might be going down, our articles may need to be packed up and moved, and our final checks may be mailed shortly, that's not to say that our work was for naught. We all learned something, we all grew, and we all became better for the experience we had, and that couldn't have happened without this site and the community around it. I may have been one of the greenest members of the Verified Team, but maybe that gives me a rich perspective to come at all of this. So before I take off, I want to leave you all with a few my favorite words of wisdom from across all of pop culture:
"The place where you lock yourself in and lock all else out - that's not your home. Your home is sometimes a place you travel long and far to find." - Geralt of Rivia, "The Witcher III: Wild Hunt"
"[This is] a map for climbing undiscovered mountains. It's a map for exploring undeveloped and undiscovered lands.
"It's a map to bring you home alive when it's time for you to advance, but on the way you got lost, or became unsure, or lost sight of the path, or ran into walls or cliffs. Come back to this golden path and rest yourself, calm your thoughts and find clarity, then keep going onward." - Hirohiko Araki, "Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga"
"We've done the impossible, and that makes us mighty." - Malcolm Reynolds, "Firefly"
"The only thing to fear is never being scared." - K. Flay, "Dreamers"
So don't forget what you've gained here. Don't forget the stories you've told, the lessons you've learned, and the struggles you've overcome. Things may look bleak in the moment, but you've come this far: you can always martial forward, and I know I will.
Though this may look like the end, I promise you it's anything but. As a student of language, I like to take a page from the wisdom of the Germans here: in parting, we say, "Auf Wiedersehen," which translates from a phrase which means, "Until we see each other again." And that's my blessing for all of you, readers, writers, editors and the rest. It's been a great run, and I know we'll all cross paths again before too long. This isn't the closing of the book; it's just the turning of another chapter.
Ben Hanig is a freelance writer living in Nebraska. You can follow his adventures in Game Design via his Facebook page, or read more of his post-Creators editorials on his personal blog, Soul Charger.