I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about something. I’ve turned it over in my mind for a few days and I’m still not sure how I fall on the issue. How important is getting payed for your writing? Does it, in and of itself, mean that you are now a professional, that you matter more to the greater community?
It started the other day when I saw various people talking about getting payed for writing about video games. Said one person, “If you are unwilling to ask about getting payed, when I ask for payment the next time I write something, I might not get payed too.” Said another, “I can’t seem to get payed for anything I do.” Spoke a third, “If I could pay my writers, I would. Right now, I can’t. But I want to.” I read all of these while I was waiting for some people to leave so I could clean up after them.
You see, I work as a janitor. I don’t talk about it much because it’s not something I like to mention to people. I mean, how do you casually bring that up in conversation? “Hi, I write on the Internet sometimes. Also, I clean toilets to help pay for my tuition costs.” It’s not something most people want to hear and not something I often like to talk about, especially to those who might offer me a new job, a better paying job to write things. I just go about my business and keep my head down.
I try to keep my head down anyway. Occasionally, as I’ve tried to be more active on Twitter, I’ve made a fool of myself.
That happened again the other day and, while I will not link to the exact statements, it’s been on my mind. In summary, I was told I should not compare myself to other writers if I am not getting payed for my work. No matter the load, no matter if I was putting out several thousand words a day, it did not matter if I was not getting payed. That was how I translated, in my own mind, what was said anyway. I took it to mean that I could write for myself, for my own happiness, but I could only dream about equality with this other certain writer, someone I admire for their constant and prolific good material. I did not matter if I was not getting payed for my work.
I’m not sure the person meant it that way. I’m not sure if, just because I made a stupid and asinine joke about quantity of material this writer puts out seemingly every single day, that they were just reacting out of annoyance that some blogger (me) was questioning them. Perhaps that was the case. Or, as I later thought about, it really is that I’m not important to the greater stage unless I am getting payed, unless I am part of some greater organization. It’s that last thought that pushed me into writing a short story the other day.
You may have noticed “Statues make the best idols” from the other day. That was my passive aggressive way of trying to explain what had happened to myself. What if, I thought, it was not the people who you admire but the ideas behind their work? Do their faces really matter at all? Is it who they are from time to time or what they do that matters? After thinking about it some, I think I fall on the actions being louder than words side of the argument.
I know I don’t really matter right now. I know that. Just this morning, I replied to a comment that said what I have been doing the last few days, the ever growing commentary on Katawa Shoujo, was silly and, as was implied in the comment, worthless to write in the manner I have been doing. And, after considering it, I agree with those thoughts. Sure, it’s silly. Most of the stuff I write is silly, dumb and, in several cases, probably mostly crap too.
But that’s not really the issue, I think. It’s more that I’m doing it at all. You don’t have to convince me that there are way too many video game bloggers out there. I know that too. I only read a small subset of them and still end up with lots of stuff that, after I’ve read what they had to say, I was not convinced it was worth my time. I’ve spent hours reading though thousands of words just to think, after I scrolled through pages of material, that I wanted that time back. And I know my own writing is no different. There are lots of posts that are not worth your time. Some are, but most aren’t.
Here is what I have decided. Write. That’s it. Writing is writing is writing. If you want to write for a living or even just a hobby, do it. That is the lesson I have learned from years at this. You can talk about how you would change something, how you might do it different in a book. I’ve certainly done that from time to time and even in the last few days too. It’s not a matter of just seeing the errors either, most people can pattern match for grammar. It’s all a matter of wanting to do it, of having the discipline of putting word after word together every day.
My default is to be sarcastic. I am often mean to people and highly critical of works I read. (You might have noticed that in my latest series.) I could give you excuses for it, but I won’t. I want to be better and I am trying to be more optimistic and cheerful about things. After all, I clean up other people’s crap for money, the least I could do is not bring that same crap attitude to my writing at the end of the day, to let it influence how I write and what I say about things.
Here is my personal challenge for this year: be better. If you, like me, want to eventually be payed for your work, show your passion. Write about the things you love. Write about the things you did not like. Try to point out, if you think something might be bad, how they might have changed it. Be open to different things, different ideas.
It’s a struggle. As was pointed out to me, I’m not there yet. I can talk big, but until I’ve got the audience, the right attitude and the necessary experience, I’m still just working my way up the mountain of professional writing. It’s a long road, longer than I thought I had left. Still, I will go on and I think you should too.
Let’s walk together on this journey. Every day is a step, sometimes forward and sometimes back. Though we may stumble when we do not pay attention to how we are walking, let’s continue anyway. Write. Do it.
2 thoughts on “If you love to write, just do it.”
Your post here inspired me to reply, as I saw several things I thought it worthwhile to comment on.
Money happens to be the only universal means of measuring a person’s worth, their contribution to society. It’s imperfect, and typically false, but the idea that one’s paycheck is directly proportional to one’s importance is hard to dispel from most people’s minds.
Numbers don’t lie, goes the saying. Numbers don’t always tell the entire truth, goes *my* saying.
The fact that what you do (clean bathrooms, write) isn’t *valued* doesn’t mean it isn’t *valuable*. Stop cleaning bathrooms for a day or two, and I guarantee you that people will notice.
I happened upon the comment in question the other day (L.A., right?), and my first thought was “Geez, chill out!” (Her, not you). In retrospect, she’s paid her dues over the years, she’s struggled to get to where she is now…and she read way too much into your comment, anyway. I wouldn’t give it a second thought.
I read your short story, and its meaning didn’t hit me until I read the above explanation, but it got me thinking: the reason that what they do may be more important than who they are could be because ideas endure, whereas people die. Or maybe because people are lazy, and they care more about ideas than the people that came up with them. So often, the art is valued, but the artist is not. That value has to come from somewhere, and it starts with you.
Your writing has value to you, and it has value to those who enjoy what you write. If game writers were to demand better pay for their work, they might be valued as well. Until then, those statues will remain faceless.
By all means, keep writing. Like you say, do it. Some may ask you, why do you even write at all if you’re not getting paid? You tell them; because communicating to others is a basic human need, and your writing, even unpaid, serves that purpose, hence it’s valuable to you. But I’ll say one more thing on that: you seem to be at odds with your own goals. You want to be a writer, but you “keep your head down”? You want to be heard…and yet you whisper. As you’re climbing that mountain, you may find that you have to shout. Not because you have something to prove, but just because you have something to say.
It works both ways, actually, from my experience. Not only do other people start to think less of you if you only work a minimum wage job, you start to think that way too. After all, it’s more of a struggle to maintain that worth if other people don’t care if you are there or not. Several years of indifference can wear anyone down.
For anyone else out there reading this comment, this is the reason I try to reply to every comment. I am reading them, I always consider what you have said and, when there is time, I make sure I say something. I wrote for months and months, writing a couple of posts a week, and received no comments at all. I’m still new enough to this to care that someone said something in response.
Sure, that’s the reason I came up with too. But, as I often do in my random short stories, I leave things rather vague on purpose. The reader is supposed to think about it (hopefully) and then come up with something. I actually meant to come back and write an introduction (I wrote it in the morning before work) but got caught in meetings between classes. By the time I got back to it, it was time to post the next Part in the commentary.
I feel myself moving that way, toward game writing. It worries me that they are so undervalued and under-payed. Of course, if I just work on my own games, there is less of an issue with that.
I keep my head down insomuch that I am no longer on a podcast and just write random things for this one blog. That is slowly changing though. I am trying to be more active in the greater community, reaching out to many people for information, help and guidance. There is a possibility that in several months I may well be a slightly louder voice.
The problem with shouting, in this context, is that I often have something to say but not the context to say it. I’m really enjoying Twitter now, for example. There are constantly neat things, sites and ideas being thrown around during the day. However, by the time I see something, several people have said my thought already. I have been mining it for things to read though. (If I wasn’t already working on this on-going commentary, I would have already written about a couple of things.)
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