Writers Are Overworked and Undervalued, and It’s Kind of Our Fault

You’re a writer, so your job must be pretty easy.

It amazes me how, in the vast hierarchy of publishing, writers seem to always rank lowest — even though they’re the ones that produce the content everyone eventually reads/hears/sees.

Wow, you’re a copy editor? Your job must be so hard!

Nice, you’re a tech mastermind — you must be so smart! (I mean, they are, but.)

You’re a social media manager? That sounds like a lot of work!

Oh … you’re a writer. That’s cool. Must be a pretty easy job.

Anyone who’s worked on a team of writers knows I’m not exaggerating here. I have friends and colleagues in all these positions. In the eyes of outsiders, the editors are linguistic geniuses, the techies (LOVE THEM!) are the kings of the digital universe, and the social media gurus are marketing and strategy GODS.

Let’s be clear — all of these things are true. All of these people are amazing.

But when a writer talks about what they do … people really aren’t impressed.

Oh, they pretend to be. But if you’ve ever really paid attention to someone asking you about what you do for a living, their questions and curiosity are minimal — at least compared to every other digital media position. They ask, “Oh, what do you write about?”

And, at least in my experience, that’s pretty much it.

People tend to think writers have it easy, for some reason. Which is extremely frustrating for those of us who spend hours researching, writing, rewriting, revising, and formatting just one piece of content.

There are many benefits to being able to say you write for a living. Writers are known to be good with words. More and more, people are recognizing they often have much wider skill sets than previously thought.

But that sometimes means more is expected of us than we get credit — or financially compensated — for.

Now, realistically, if you’re writing for a virtual media company as I do, you’re not going to make anything close to six figures as a writer — not with just one job at a time, anyway. In no way am I claiming writers deserve the salaries of surgeons here. It’s only getting harder for businesses to make money online, and as you can guess, paying writers is a necessity — but they don’t always have the luxury of paying us as much as they might actually love to.

Even still, money aside, we’re not treated well. Sites trying to grow are desperate for content, and in many cases, we’re somehow expected to be able to submit work free of mistakes, as quickly as possible. And don’t even get me started on how audiences treat us. Have you ever looked at the Facebook comments of articles? People bash the writer as if they have no way of or desire to see what people are saying about their work. My favorite are the “this writer knows nothing about …” comments. Actually, if a writer wrote something about a topic, they probably do know more than you’re giving them credit for.

All this — people just assuming we have it easy, when we don’t; people tearing apart our work out of boredom, or whatever — is probably our fault, to be honest. People don’t take writers seriously. Maybe it’s because we don’t take our writing seriously enough.

I’m all for having fun, no matter what you’re working on. I like making jokes, I like having a good time. But when it comes down to it, every single thing I write is my baby. I put all the time and effort I have into every fragment of what I’ve published. There is a piece of me left in everything, because in the grand scheme of things, I’m not messing around. My job is to communicate things in ways other people cannot. My words are credible, because I make sure they are. I’m just as important as the editor who fixes any mistakes I make, as the tech superheroes who make it look pretty, as the social media person who puts it on Twitter. I’m not MORE important than anyone. We are all an equal part of the same team. Why is what a writer does never valued or appreciated the way it should be?

Some of us went to school for this. Most of us have been training, whether or consciously or not, for years, just to “sit and type,” as some might say.

Writing is not hard, but it is hard work. And doing it well is not something just anyone can sit down and do. It’s the same case for everyone else. So why does everyone assume “anyone can write, so we’re just getting paid to sit”? Anyone can write. Not everyone can make a career out of it.

I can cook, but I am not a chef. I don’t go around bragging about how I’m going to make the best omelette in the world one day unless I’m already practicing my omelette skills and I have the discipline to learn how to make better omelettes every single time I make one. Some people talk about their future omelette empires, but they’ve never even made one stupid omelette. THAT’S NOT FAIR TO THE REST OF US OMELETTE MAKERS.

If you’re serious about writing — if you’re truly passionate about writing as this Thing You Want to Spend Your Professional Life Doing, it’s time to step up. We’re all part of the problem, so it’s up to us to fix it.

WORK HARDER THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED TO. Because it will pay off. Because that will show the non-writers and the “I can write so I can write“ers that if they’re going to keep up with us, they need to get serious and start putting in the work.

GET SO GOOD YOU CAN IGNORE THEM. Those who expect too much of you for little or NO PAY, I mean. Get so good at your job that you’re actually worth more than they’re willing to pay. If they really value you, they’d pay, and you know it.

DON’T MESS AROUND. Throw all the passion you have into every story you write. And don’t you dare be shy about it. Show the world that you actually care about what you’re writing, that you’re not just in it for the money, that the people you’re interviewing, the stories you’re telling, ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING TO YOU.

DEMAND TO BE HEARD. I mean, don’t shove your work into people’s faces or roam the streets gloating about how great you are, that’s just annoying. But when people ask you about your writing, be proud of it. Tell them about what you’re working on. Writers play many different roles in society, everything from entertainers to teachers to salespeople. Wherever you fit within the wide spectrum of careers a degree or experience in writing has to offer you, hold your head up high and allow yourself to feel as important as you are. What you do matters, and while not everyone needs to or will be interested in reading what you write, they should at least respect you.

What we do is neither easy nor unimportant, and I’m really tired of everyone else seeming to think otherwise. You can’t change how other people behave, but you can modify your own behavior and make a huge difference. We’re worth more. Not because we’re the best there is, but because we work just as hard as everyone else. We are not the lowest of the low. We’re just a part of the big picture. We have the power to reach people all over the world and change their lives. Isn’t that worth celebrating?

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

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8 thoughts on “Writers Are Overworked and Undervalued, and It’s Kind of Our Fault

  1. Great post! I can assure you, not everybody undervalues writers/authors. I wrote a post entitled ‘A Tribute to Authors’, or something a long those lines a while back. I grew up in a very impoverished, dysfunctional family. If it hadn’t been for books, that took me to places I could never go, I’m not sure where I would be write now. They were my saving grace, my escape. Thank You.

  2. I used to get such awed reactions when, as a 13 year old, I declared myself a writer. Everyone’s impressed when a youngun writes a book.
    People are apparently much less impressed that a 21 year old woman is writing a book. In fact, apparently so are they. And twenty of their friends, as well as their neighbor. It’s no longer impressive, unless you’re successfully published.

    1. Exactly. Once I graduated college people stopped being excited about my writing haha! It’s harder to be proud of your accomplishments when you’re no longer ‘unique,’ but if we’re not excited about our work, no one ever will be. Ugh.

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