In this article, the author was responding to an author who, upon publication of a book, found herself quite broke. Of this Ms. Bloom, who claims that writing isn't a job, said of the broke author:
she wants — even maybe expects? — to make a living out of writing
The problem is not that a writer wants to make a living from writing. It's that people at large, I think, seriously undervalue the art form (this is true for most arts, I think). Here's the thing, if you've read a book and enjoyed it, or learnt something, or was taken away to another world to forget about life for a moment, there is value in that. And that value deserves to be compensated.
Why are people so hesitant to compensate writers for their work? It makes absolutely no sense to me. You received something of value. Like any other service, that value should be paid to the writer accordingly.
This isn't just a fair exchange, though it is that. You see, if you love a writer's work, compensating them for it enables them to continue creating the work you love to read. If they cannot support themselves, then the writing takes a back seat to work that can. The supply of work from that writer you love comes slower, or sometimes stops altogether.
And writers do get compensated. They do work. They get compensated for it. That, my dear Ms. Bloom, is a job. Now, if a writer doesn't get paid much, they probably have other jobs they do, either odd jobs or steady work or something. It doesn't matter that a writer has other work, as many do, writing is still a job. Entertaining, educating or challenging the reader is their job.
And it is right and fair that writers feel they should get compensated for their work. Wanting to do so is not a strange wish, even if that work is writing.
You cannot make a living out of writing!
It obviously can be done.
The difference between earning a living writing as opposed to more regular, non-artistic jobs, is that making a living at writing is not easy. You don't land the job and then start earning steady pay cheques. Getting to a spot in life where you can earn a living with writing takes an enormous effort. You really have to haul arse.
You must network and market and make terrifying public appearances. You have to bust your butt to get people to notice you and your writing. it takes courage and skill and talent and persistence and patience and dedication and absolute discipline.
It is, if you'll pardon my Australianism, hard yakka.
Claims like the above, I fear, only serve to devalue the work being done, to make the work seem trivial, or unworthy, or easy. It's not easy. Not by a long shot.
Not everyone can do it. So not everyone succeeds.
However, just because a lot of people fail at making a living with their writing doesn't mean it can't be done and shouldn't be attempted.
It can be done. And it should be fought for.
It's a hell of a fight, so be sure you really want it before you start the battle, or you will absolutely fail.
Writing is a thing you can do if you like it! It’s a thing you might get paid for, now and again, if you’re good at it! But it’s not a job.
Say goodbye to long hours on a rainy Sunday with a hot cup of tea and a good book.
Oh, dear comics, we hardly knew ye.
Adios, all kinds of cinema. There will be no script writers.
Fare thee well, video games, who also employ writers.
There is more that writing gives us; less tangible things. Is it because you cannot see them or hold them in your hand, you fail to acknowledge their value?
I do not fail in this regard. I've said it before.
Books saved my life.
I have so few happy memories of growing up. But I remember fondly the books I read, from silly and fun Choose Your Own Adventures and the Animorphs series, through to heavier reads like The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Tower series, Dune, and countless other stories that tore me away from the hurt and put me in a new place. These books, all the books I read, provided a place of refuge against the world. They also taught me an awful lot.
I remember being given a class assignment; choose your real life hero and explain to the class why.
I didn't have a real life hero.
My heroes were all fictional. These fictional characters provided the role models I wanted to emulate; Frodo's courage, and Samwise's stalwart friendship. Sparhawk's honour, Sephrina's patience.
Fiction taught me more about the best humanity has to offer than anything else I've seen. It does not surprise me one bit that my fellows who grew up reading fiction are also the kindest, bravest, most beautiful souls I know.
Books, fiction, enabled me to examine aspects of my own experience, through the lens of a character. They enabled me to distance myself from the things that were happening to and around me, to examine them, dissect them, understand them and, ultimately, conquer them.
If Frodo could carry that ring all the way to Mount Doom, I could live through high school.
There is immeasurable value in that. And that value should be honoured by those who receive it.
It also seems a peculiar attitude towards the arts that the act of creation should be compensation enough. And it is true that there is enormous satisfaction in completing a manuscript. Satisfaction, however, does not put food on the table or hold a roof over your head.
Furthermore, there are accountants who do what they do because they love to do it. Does the satisfaction of getting a great tax return for their client preclude accountants from earning their worth? What about carpenters? Finishing a cabinet is immensely satisfying. Should that satisfaction alone be their recompense? Of course not. To consider it is ridiculous.
It is no less ridiculous to suggest it for writers.
Yes, writers love what they do. So too do carpenters and accountants.
In short, writing is a job. If you're a novelist especially, it might not be the main job, until a writer hits big and manages to earn enough to quit the various other job they may have (I am currently working two other jobs in addition to my writing), but it certainly is a job. It's work.
And it should be treated, and compensated, as such.