Jonathan Franzen: ‘Freelancing Is the American Dream’

Journalist, novelist, playwright, entrepreneur and father Jonathan Franzen stopped by “The Storytelling Arts” with Andrea Parker to discuss how today’s storytelling landscape is changing, and how no longer is it enough to be a…

Jonathan Franzen: 'Freelancing Is the American Dream'

Journalist, novelist, playwright, entrepreneur and father Jonathan Franzen stopped by “The Storytelling Arts” with Andrea Parker to discuss how today’s storytelling landscape is changing, and how no longer is it enough to be a writer but it needs to involve multiple tools and skills in order to be successful in the craft.

Freelancing is a rising trend with professionals from the arts and entertainment leading the way. Freelancers are increasing in numbers, rising especially among those with seemingly more challenging jobs in sectors such as journalism and comedy, according to the Freelancers Union’s Q3 2018 Freelancer Income Survey.

“The American Dream has shifted,” Franzen said. “We’re no longer dreaming of being able to work our asses off and have no responsibilities and all the money in the world. We’re always thinking about living well in terms of the resources we have to give to our families and our community and our health.”

Since the rise of the gig economy, Franzen said, people are carving out longer careers and building “practical careers” alongside their creative careers.

“I think of my own writing career as ‘practice,’” Franzen said. “It’s not like my hobby; my hobby is writing.”

As the self-described “least autobiographical novelist in America,” Franzen said one of the reasons he finds it so fulfilling is that he doesn’t have to suffer the frustration of having to write on deadline, a quality he sees holding back the creation of other writers.

“As the ‘fiction farmer,’ as I call myself, I have the privilege of writing what is outside the stories that really matter to me,” Franzen said. “Other writers have to write what is inside the stories that matter to them.”

Over the years, Franzen said his writing has evolved as his audience has followed suit and he appreciates the liberating role of that autonomy.

“I think writing is just a thought-process. It has no consequences,” Franzen said. “I mean, there’s pressure. I sometimes just feel a tug and a tug, but you almost don’t feel any kind of pressure. You know that you’re just going out there doing it.”

Franzen said that in recent years, he has considered increasing his visibility in the world of entertainment, but that is not the main reason for doing so. He said his involvement in the arts is in large part about looking back on experiences that he has had that he would like to share, which could then lead to his voice being heard.

“In fact, I would say that since I’ve had these experiences, the privilege of being able to write about them and tell their stories has been heightened,” Franzen said. “And so I have really felt it’s a privilege of actually having seen the world to being able to write about it, to tell stories.”

“The Storytelling Arts” with Andrea Parker airs every Friday on Fox Nation.

Watch more on this story from “The Storytelling Arts” above.

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