I’m not entirely sure why it is but there’s something about writers that people don’t seem to understand. A few, bare facts that might have slipped people’s minds. They run as follows:
We don’t write just because we love it (though that’s certainly the reason we write 80% of the time), we don’t do it purely to see our names published in some glossy magazine or to see our bylines at the beginning of some amazingly written article, which will either leave people reeling or applauding as they trawl online articles or peruse their favourite print publication, with a cup of steaming tea and some crunchy cookies inches away…
We also don’t write to change the world… we know that’s an impossible mission and putting some words onto paper won’t stop global warming or save thousands of people, we know that and it’s okay because occasionally when we write, we somehow manage to make someone’s world a little brighter, a little more informed or maybe even a little less… empty.
We seriously don’t write because it’s going to make us rich because more often than not, it makes us poor or leaves us with more debts than pay cheques coming in. It’s kind of an unspoken and loosely accepted rule among writing circles.
Be that as it may, it seems that most people (and by this I mean people who aren’t writers themselves or who specialise in a different career/field) assume that writers have just accepted that we won’t really earn much so why should you pay us decently, right? I mean, hell, doesn’t everyone know that you don’t go into writing (or journalism) to be wealthy… not unless you accidentally make it big and turn into the next J.K. Rowling.
You do it because writing is how you survive. It’s how you empty your mind of negative thoughts as your fingers beat a steady, rhythmical line across a Word document or your hand twirls messy cursive scrawl across a white blank page in a swelling rage. You do it because it’s impossible to ignore or else, because you feel compelled to.
You do it because it feels good even when you’re feeling dreadful. You do it because it’s therapeutic and healing. It’s cleansing and fun. It’s complex and effortless all at the same time.
You do it because it’s your calling. Your passion. Your forte. You do it for the same reasons a businessman puts on a suit and tie in the morning and sidles into his office well before the sun has risen and leaves it long after it has set. You feel the same necessity for it as does the single working mom who bakes cakes for a living. Or the actress trying to climb up the entertainment ladder in the hopes that one day she will star in a film.
You do it because this is your career of choice and this, this writing thing, is your job. It’s how you pay the bills and put food on the table. It’s what occasionally allows you to splurge on that new dress or to take your wife on a much-needed trip overseas.
I didn’t set out to study Journalism at university because I thought it would make me wealthy, nor did I do it because it was all I could see myself doing (I seriously considered teaching and photography too somewhere along my way to adolescence) – I went off to study Journalism because writing was and still is my passion and it has been that way ever since I was eight years old, sitting in front of an ancient PC typing out a very childish tale about a family of rabbits, no less.
I did it because it was my dream and I believe in pursuing dreams, even if they will never quite amount to what you’d imagined at the time (sometimes they are better, sometimes they are worse).
I wanted to become a writer because to do otherwise would have been to deny myself the simple happiness and pleasure of producing something that is not only (hopefully) worth reading, but something that is, more importantly, worth writing.
That’s the thing about writing, you see… you do it for yourself as much as any potential readers you may have and thus, it is both a selfish and a selfless act all wrapped up in one. It’s your ‘gift’ to others as much as to yourself. It is honestly sometimes more rewarding to write something which you yourself feel is ‘decent’ than to have fifty people commend you on its purported ‘brilliance’, I can tell you that… but we still appreciate the kind sentiments and the recognition, don’t worry about that.
Sadly, though, the world seems to have this terrifying misconception about writers (and nowadays, bloggers)… Other people assume that just because we might not have a stereotypical nine-to-five job like the next person or we don’t necessarily need to go into an office job every day to do our ‘thing’, that we don’t really, well, work per se.
What’s even more astonishing is the fact that people seem to believe writers can subsist on air (whoops, I mean, passion) alone. Oh, how I wish that were true… It would be great if I could go and churn out a thousand perfectly written words and then a moment later, suddenly, my life will be sunshine and roses and I won’t have to worry about debt or grocery shopping.
If you have ever written for someone or something on any vaguely semi-professional or professional level or have even just helped someone close to you with an assignment or written task as a writer, then you will know where I am going with this.
“Hey, you’re good at writing, right? Could you just read over this for me?” It’s a 300-page thesis and I am actually not your personal ‘Grammar Nazi’ or English teacher but okay, sure, I’ll check it for you.
“We have an idea for this but well, um, could you maybe write an intro. for us?” Are you serious? No, you can’t be serious. After all, you’re studying Journalism too (and you’re a mere year below me) so I know you are not serious now. (You’re having me on – and no, no, I will not. Even I have to draw a line sometimes, so you had better write your own intro. or plagiarise someone else’s work.)
It starts with your inner circles and then it spreads to, well, other people (read: everyone who doesn’t have a natural aptitude for writing). They say things like: “I saw your blog online and liked your writing,” and then it somehow turns into asking if you can’t just promote their product on it for them? We won’t pay you but you know, who does?
Or what about “…couldn’t I advertise on your site”? Sure, let me send you the standard per word rate – and oh, what’s that? You’ve suddenly forgotten how to type out an email response and have disappeared off the face of the planet? Hmm, how convenient and my, isn’t your timing funny?
Perhaps worst of all is: “Why don’t you even write/sub-edit several articles for me and we’ll, uh, we’ll discuss payment”. Only… we never discuss payment. Not then or after you have published my work.
Oh, well, I’ll let it slide because, like most writers, I’ve developed this terrible habit of freely (literally) offering my services or having people ask me for help and I just can’t say no, can I? I’m helpful and nice and I like you as a person so yes, of course I’ll re-write your draft or proofread it till I’m blue in the face and my eyes feel itchy and red behind this screen and I won’t complain because I love this, my career that you think isn’t worth your time or isn’t serious like that architect’s and well, * bonus * I like to help people.
All the same, just because I offer my help or I willingly write or proofread things for people sometimes does not mean that I don’t expect to be paid now that I am nearly a writing graduate. I have enough experience in writing and I have received a proper education, I’ve been through two years of paid tuition, doing a tertiary-level writing course, with some of this country’s finest lecturers and respected literary or writing professionals.
So please, don’t think that I don’t know how to ply my trade just as well as the next graduate. My writing or blogging peers and I are just as capable as that accounting student or PR one.
Like so many other aspiring or established writers out there, we know we can write well enough to make a living out of it, and just because we might happily freelance or choose to maintain a blog and we’re still students, who will soon be more ambitious writers out in the world, does not mean that we do not deserved to be paid or recognised like any other working professional, past or present.
If you want a photo shoot, however amateur the photographer may be, they will charge you and you won’t baulk at the idea of paying them an hourly rate or a set fee. That’s their job, after all. Just as you won’t ring up a plumber when your toilet is blocked and ask him to do you a ‘favour’ and fix it.
You also probably would not get away with telling your office newbie to work five days a week and come pay day, you just say to them, “Oh, well, here’s a nice, complimentary freebie and my thanks… surely that’s enough to satisfy all your needs and make ends meet?” Of course you wouldn’t even try to do that.
So if you don’t do it for other working people and their specific careers, then damn well don’t do it for my career. Writers do a lot of things purely out of passion or for a dozen other reasons that don’t make sense to anyone else but us – but here’s something you might not have considered about us: we also do it to earn a living. I just thought you should know…
Posted from WordPress for Android by T.A.Ryan