Many People Still Don’t Understand Writing As a Job

Sometimes I still feel like my family and friends think I sit around writing fluff all day long.

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When I am asked what I do for a living, I say I am a writer.

I used to be proud to say that. Then I realized how many people actually call themselves writers, or say they want to be writers someday. My perspective really shifted when I started writing professionally. Suddenly it became very clear that this skill I had worked so hard to develop, this skill that I was so proud of, did not make me any more marketable than anyone else. It did not make me special. In fact, it made me less valuable in the real world, because apparently, all I did was type words on a keyboard, and that was no longer good enough.

Even if they do not say it out loud, people immediately judge that answer. “I am a writer.” To many of them, being a writer means earning a whole bunch of money just sitting around making up stories. That, or they immediately form a picture in their mind of the stereotypical starving artist, the person who will never do anything important with their life because they refuse to do anything other than what they have spent years training to do.

As much as I sometimes wish that easy, effortless money were the outcome (you know, on those really rough days), it isn’t. For those who think otherwise, listen up. For those who are in my position, you will appreciate this rant.

We, the writers of the world, need people to stop undervaluing our skills.

We, the word wizards, the language masters, need everyone else to stop expecting us to write for free.

We need to be appreciated. Because what we do is neither easy nor repeatable. Unless you have years of training and hundreds of documents in your portfolio like we do, you cannot simply sit down and write the way we write. We can write because it is what we have trained to do, many of us for years, some even decades. It does not mean we think we are better than you. It means there should be more places for us in the workforce, and often times, there are never enough.

So when we apply for jobs, when we submit our work, we are not asking you to take our words and use them for your own personal benefit without decent compensation. “Writing for experience” is something aspiring writers do in college. Many, many of us are past that point. We are professionals. It is time we are treated as such.

Do you think we just sat down, said a magic word and all those words appeared? Do you think we just went onto Google and copied someone else’s ideas? Writing does not take 15 minutes and then it’s over. It can take hours. Days. Weeks. Months. YEARS.

Why, of all the professions, does writing always seem to lay at the bottom of the stack?

If you are a photographer, you get paid to take photographs. If you are a web designer, you get paid to design web pages. So why is it that a writer, the expert communicator, the content creator, who can do a job well that not everyone else can do with such advanced skill, is constantly looked down upon and offered crappy by-the-word pay rates?

Maybe those analogies don’t work. Maybe photographers and web designers have a pretty hard time of it too and I’m wrong to assume. I only know what I know because writing is the only job I have ever had. My whole life, I have been a writer, and my whole life, people have asked me what I want to do with that.

What do I want to do with writing? I want to … write? How is that so complicated?

I do not want to sit around all day and write fairytales, and I shake my head at anyone who thinks that is what writers do. Even authors who write fiction for a living do more than that. Writing is a job. It does not matter if you are writing the next big fantasy series or articles about productivity or press releases for a PR firm.

Writing is a JOB, maybe one of the most important jobs (opinion), and I do not say that because I am a writer. I say that because, without good writers, we cannot sell. We cannot give feedback. We cannot report the news. We cannot give helpful advice or give cautionary warnings or explain why this thing is the way it is. We need writers. And I don’t know about you, but I am proud to be one and I am proud of the WORK, yes, WORK, that I do.

Sometimes I still feel like my family and friends think I sit around writing fluff all day long. Not even close. After awhile writing may come much easier to a person, but that does not mean it is not draining. That does not mean that after a full day of writing, I can still think clearly and feel fully energized because I sat in a chair all day. Quite the opposite. I am exhausted. My brain hurts, because I worked. All day. There are people out there who think this is easy. EASY. If it were easy, everyone could do it. And that is why so many people try. Because they think it will be easy. Because they think they can throw a bunch of words together and make money without much effort. PLEASE STOP.

In no way am I here to discourage anyone from following their dreams and pursuing a writing career. Just know that if that is what you want, you are going to have to work for it. Hard. And if you have family or friends who do not “get” what you do, link them to this post. Maybe it will help them realize that you have a job that is just as important as theirs, and it should be appreciated and valued as such. You are contributing to just as much of the world as anyone else. Never let anyone talk you down.

If nothing else, know that I am proud of you. For wanting to do this, for being willing to put up with the nonsense, for doing what you want to do even though most of the time it does not pay well, and your work goes unappreciated, and you often feel alone. That makes you strong and powerful in your own way. Don’t you ever forget that.

Now get back to that awesome job of yours. ;)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

19 thoughts on “Many People Still Don’t Understand Writing As a Job

  1. True! Apparently non-writers believe it takes as little time to write some bestseller as it takes to reading it. Tsk. (Same for art, by the way, but that’s a whole rant of its own.)

      1. I know that feeling. *pushes terrible short stories and novel drafts from teenage years out of sight*

        But then again, even if it’s not that great, at least it’s finished. That’s quite the achievement!

  2. It took me 8 hours to write one headline. Constantly searching for an angle, getting the emotion right, and all the time, trying to keep it as short and as simple as possible. Finally, when the ad ran, it worked beyond expectations and changed the fortune of the advertiser. I did get a very big paycheck for the effort. Did I deserve it? Heck ya. Was it easy? It surely could have been if I’d wanted the work to be second rate. The trouble with writing great copy is the writer has to set the benchmark. And the higher you set your standards, the harder the job becomes. Simple sentences can take hours to compose. So why do it? Because great work touches people and changes lives. And that’s good enough for me.

    1. “So why do it? Because great work touches people and changes lives. And that’s good enough for me.” YES. THIS. EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS GOLDEN.

  3. Meg—very good post! I agree writing is a job. It is interesting to see where one’s writing leads. For me now, I seem to be having more success with freelance writing than with my ‘creative’ eBooks.

  4. Recently my life has changed, and so now need to choose another path. I want to follow the desire to be a writer even thought I’ve had no formal training. I am also anxious that when I need to explain what I’m going to do, people will look at me differently and mutter behind hands. This post was very reassuring. We are all in the same boat.

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