Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why Would Anyone Want to Be a Writer?

Everybody and their great aunt Sophie wants to be a writer. I'm beginning to believe that is our duty as writers, to discourage some of these folks. I mean, seriously, if they all become writers, what will happen to the rest of us?

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my friend Ed. Ed has flirted with the idea of being a writer--sending off little articles to newspapers, writing about his vacations and giving copies out to his friends, trying the whole idea out. Ed was in love with the idea of being a writer. But then he talked to another friend, asking her, what she had made off her writing. When she told him somewhere around $250.00 (after expenses), Ed was flabbergasted. So he came to me for some kind of confirmation. She couldn't, he told me, be serious.

When I told him that the last time I checked the average published writer made about $5000.00 a year, and it had been that way for a very long time, Ed was appalled. "How could anyone do that?" He asked.

I shrugged and mumbled something about day jobs.

But I think I stumbled on something here. Maybe all those folks who are in love with the idea of writing just need to hear the facts.

The first fact about writing for most of us? No money, no money, no freakin' money.

The next (probably equally appalling) fact is there is precious little credit in this field. As my friend Michelle Birkby wrote on our blog, RuleofThree It's time to celebrate writers., Think about it, when is the last time you saw the writer's name up there with the actors as the TV program starts? With the exception of Doctor Who (which to be honest, I didn't even notice until Michelle pointed it out,) I can think of no time whatsoever.

Worse than that, it has become common for quotes from movies, TV shows and the like to be attributed to the actor who spoke the lines instead of the writer who wrote them. (As in "Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn," said Clark Gable in his role as Rhett Butler in "Gone with the Wind." Instead of "From Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell."

So really, no money, no credit, and excepting perhaps Stephen King, no public recognition, who would be a writer? Besides me, I mean.

Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series. Safe House, the second book in the series, is available now.


Mary said...

Oh so true, Christine.
The one that irks me most is if they recognize a name, like King, and they say,"He gets paid for doing nothing. He's a writer--anyone can write."

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You got it! I read the number of authors who make their living just as authors in America is 300. That's it!

Sun Singer said...

True, true and true.

When people come up and say they want to be a writer, I see it as a discount.

Are they telling me that because they think that if I can do it, they can do it?

How many other professionals with 20 to 30 years of experience do we walk up to and say, gee, I've always wanted to be a physicist or a surgeon?

How rude that would be.

If people want to be writers, they need to be quiet about it and just go do it.


Earl Staggs said...

Thanks, Christine, for burying me under a blanket of depression. ;-(

Seriously, though, I think the percentage of actors, artists, and musicians is about the same as writers insofar as those who make a decent living and those who don't. Money aside, I do it for the challenge. Very few people can become truly good writers, and if I keep working at it, there's always a chance I'll become one of them.

Then, of course, there's always the dream that I can be one of those who make the big bucks, and dreams are free.