Tag Archives: professionalism

I’m a Writer, Not a Trophy Wife

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Use McCoy’s catchphrase in a title. 

TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

TISATAAFWPE: There Isn’t Such A Thing As A Free Writing Piece, Either.

As I wrestle the kracken known as the job market, there is one thing that I keep running into as a writer: “job” postings for writers that don’t offer compensation of any kind. Sometimes, it’s phrased in a particularly crafty way: “Exposure-centered compensation” or “Excellent portfolio-building opportunity.”

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Ahem. These “jobs” usually involve a writer putting in hours upon hours of work per week only to come up with empty pockets. We have bills to pay, too. “He who controls the Spice…” and all that.

No, not the charity stuff

There’s nothing wrong with doing charity work. I love it. See?

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When a writer chooses to write for free for a good cause, it’s like a doctor volunteering at a clinic. It’s an act of donating time instead of money to a cause that the writer cares about. My gripe isn’t with charity work; it’s with everyone thinking that their personal gain is a good cause.

Why is this even a thing?

There’s a perception that artists (including writers) don’t deserve payment. Don’t believe me? Huffington Post asked Wil Wheaton to reprint his blog post, and they said that they couldn’t “afford” to compensate him for his work. If Wil Wheaton, actor, writer, and well-known personality is being snubbed like this by a wildly successful publication, you can imagine how it is for us little guys who are just trying to find a way to pay our bills.

If it’s not possible in this country for people to walk into a hospital and receive life-saving treatments without the hospital knowing for sure that they’re going to get paid for their troubles, why is it possible for people to expect non-essential services like writing for free?

I said it. Writing is non-essential. If I am about to bleed out from a wound sustained in a car accident, a nice academic paper isn’t going to do anything for me. If I’m starving, a sonnet is grand, but where is the food that we need farmers to produce?

I’m not saying that writing isn’t of value. It’s communication. It’s advertising. It’s an expression of self and company identity. It’s a luxury.  Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs  explains that once we’re fed, watered, and not getting eaten by the nearest predator, humans can begin to pursue the fun stuff: love; friendship; a career; inner peace; a Shake Weight; whatever. (The person who created this aesthetically pleasing graphic had not reached the level where one requires a proofreader or the proper spelling of “hierarchy.”)

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If you can afford to need writing, you can afford to pay a writer. It’s an investment, whether the piece of writing is a novel, a radio spot script, a blog post, or something else. When you buy a novel, you get entertainment, personal insight, opened thought, and perhaps a common interest with another person. Your radio spot will get your business noticed. Your blog post will get you more hits.

The adage “You get what you pay for” is everywhere in our society. Why, then, are we expecting to get quality when we offer writers empty promises instead of the pay they deserve?