Writing for a Living

Writers are in great demand but, because what we produce are words, people often read what we write and think, “Well, that doesn’t look so hard. I could do that!” and then expect writers to charge less for the work because it’s less tangible than, say, the plumber fixing your sink. In addition, we don’t make it look hard.

Words are important. They convey our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and artistic impressions. We cannot expect a plumber who fixes a a broken sink and charges $200 to accept $100 just because you realize you probably could have done something similar.

When I tell people I am a writer, I often have them respond by telling me that they also like to write and that they plan on writing a book.

I have done the lion’s share of work on a non-fiction book (nearly 40,000 words completed) and even had the book proposal make it through an acquisitions editor to the acquisitions committee only to find that my background was not what they wanted (they wanted investigative journalists as authors for that particular type of book at the time). It was hard work to get that far. The proposal alone was 65 pages and required market research as well as reader research. It’s no easy task to write and be published.

Personally, I admire the fiction writer because I know the work involved in writing a work of fiction. It’s hard to convey the thoughts and feelings of characters. It’s hard to consistently write in the correct viewpoint and voice. It’s hard to remember a character’s temperament, eye color, background and vocation. It demands organization and a rigorous discipline to do it well.

And, to some degree, I admire those who can easily say that they are going to write a book. Maybe it’s because I know the work involved, but I find it daunting. I should borrow some courage from those brave souls who are ready to go all in and write a work of fiction. As Paul Gallico once wrote, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.”