Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Writing

A friend alerted me to an article this morning:

http://gawker.com/5989280/when-people-write-for-free-who-pays

My first response was as follows:

It would be lovely to get paid for writing, but I actually resent people who set out to get paid for it. I doubt I could effectively explain that in a short comment. When I was a teenager, getting ridiculously high marks for English and my career's officer suggested journalism, I was given a tour of the local newspaper and decided there and then that I never wanted anything to do with it. It is only in blogging (for free) that I feel I am writing "right". I don't expect anyone to agree with me.

But then I thought, that's going to get me into trouble, so I may as well be even more controversial:

OR.........writing for money is like sex for money. 

So, now I have very few people not shaking their fists at me, I shall continue.

Writing is like talking, only on paper, or, in most cases these days, on a screen. Some people do get paid for talking, it's true, but at least they have travelling expenses, and probably large bills for their hair, clothes etc, our world being what it is. That doesn't altogether justify it, and let's assume the talker is actually doing it somewhere without all that. Many possibilities there, at a party, at the water-cooler, you choose. Do you pay him for his opinions? No, that would be ridiculous.

There are those who talk for a living such as teachers, priests, and TV newsreaders, but they do a lot more besides. They are not just spouting off their opinions. And then there are authors, who devote months to their art and produce a piece of work that is lasting, memorable, or possibly life-changing.

These days, because we have blogging as a real outlet for writing, we have a lot of free writing in the world. Some of it is quality writing, and some is not, but it's available for free. Where there is good blogging it is stealing thunder from journalism. Newspapers are dying, due to the internet, and online publications are, at least for now, mostly available free. So journalism is not the same as it once was, because things change.

In a way, blogging could be blamed for the lack of opportunities open to journalists, but the situation itself is not new. There have always been buskers and amazing pavement art, graffiti, and so on, but musicians and artists still found regular work. The difference is, buskers and street artists aren't whining about those who get paid gigs. In fact, plenty of artists and musicians use the "free" exposure to start their careers, which is why You Tube and Deviant Art are full of talent. Why is writing different?

Because for years the industry was a cosy environment where really bad writing flourished, and hacks got paid by the word. Journalism, in fact, could be quite a dirty word. Mistakes, rumours, or complete fabrication, intrusive behaviour, and some of the worst grammar in print. There are exceptions to every rule, I'm fully aware of them, and the very best rose to the top, deservedly so. That's how artistic life is. It's a contest. The arts are not like other jobs. 

And here's why. Not all writing is equal and some is a matter of taste. Just like music, just like art. I have explained many times in my blogging life why I don't get involved in the writing community, and frankly, people don't like it. My first post here at Blogger was this one:

http://chovblog.blogspot.ca/2012/11/writing-about-writing.html

If you write something, and get paid for it, good for you. Congratulations. On the other hand, if you write FOR money, don't expect any sympathy from me if you don't get it. The worst writing I see on a regular basis was intended for profit.

Don't bother telling me about bills to pay. If I didn't have bills to pay I'd be writing all day too. OR....I could spend all day dancing, and whine about not getting paid for that. If you've seen me dance, you'll know that nobody is ever going to pay to watch me wiggle. No, I write when I have time, for pleasure, and if one day money comes my way from it, great! But it's not a get-rich-quick scheme, it's a matter of quality, taste, and luck. And that's how it's always been, and how it should be.

If I didn't believe in writing as an art, I wouldn't be supporting my son as a full-time writer, who may never make a penny from it, despite the fact he is actually good at it, and he may just sponge off me forever. So this is not just theoretical. This is my life, I am sincere in my opinion, not just tossing words about, and nothing anyone can say will convince me otherwise.

And, you read this for free. Enjoy.

10 comments:

  1. Terrific as usual. Wish I had time to comment further but I have to go to work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The real horror are those people who write blogs with less substance than yours and they get paid for it. The biggest newspaper in my area is nothing but pages and pages of blogs now. They pay their reporters to write opinion pieces and call it news. The paper started charging people to read the online version. They charge more for the online version than for the paper version. And they can't understand why subscribers dropped like flies when they started doing this. They blame the economy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Before blogging really took off, there were those who thought they could make money from websites that offered and outlet for writers. I can't for the life of me remember the one I was invited to, but the standard of writing was absolutely diabolical. These sites all failed, all of them. Because they attracted bad writers AND nobody wanted to pay to read rubbish. And systems like that always will fail. Good writing almost never happens to order....Sing Muse!

      Delete
  3. I've been contracted to write for profit a few times and it was always miserable. The joy was taken out of it, the sense of magic was gone and I will never, ever do it again.

    As for the news media et al? The writing is substandard, the reporting is rarely true reporting, the "journalists" seem to have never learned the most basic of news authoring - the 5 W's.

    A large majority of the population is no longer happy with the elementary level of articles in magazines, in newspapers and particularly the television.

    The glory days of the Enquirer, the Star and other wastes of trees in that genre are over but mainstream media hasn't yet read their memo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elementary level, sums it up perfectly.

      Delete
  4. I know you dislike hockey Melanie but here is a prime example of how and why mass media is dying so quickly:
    http://tinyurl.com/blgaeov

    The reporter is arrogant and obnoxious. He is so intent with his whining that the story is lost, not that it was much of a story except to other self-important journalists harbouring the same resentment toward professional athletes due to their own inadequacies, it would seem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, and of course, there are better writers out there, but there are far more of this level.

      Delete
  5. It's not just writing. I would be severely limited in what I can actually do on a computer if it were not for those generous souls who offer their work as freeware. I also donate to development costs when I have a few $ to spare but for the most part I just have to hope that offering my e-books freely is acceptable as a fair exchange.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is apparently becoming harder to earn a living by one's pen. On the one hand, too bad. On the other hand, once upon a time a person could make a decent living as a scribe just by being literate. Things change. If only they changed a bit slower.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In a way, you can still make money as a scribe. It's called data entry,LOL. OK, OK, there's also translation work.

      Delete