The Four Weird Things People Will Say When You Tell Them You’re a Professional Writer
Keep that pen in your hand, even if someone is putting their foot in their mouth
The idea of the life of a writer is a lot more glamorous than the actual life of a writer.
People picture me typing on a beautiful vintage typewriter, sipping delicious coffee in a clay mug, while longingly glancing outside at the picture-perfect nature scene outside of my window.
Alternatively, they may picture a life of art, sex, and drugs à la Charles Bukowski.
In reality, I am typing manically on my phone because “I have to write this article now”, while my daughter hauls on my arm, even after I played with her for two hours. There is nature outside, but I have no time to stare longingly at it. Truthfully, I barely had time to comb my hair today.
These days, I work longer and harder than when I had a conventional full-time job.
Yet, the stereotypes of a writer persist.
“Why don’t you try getting a real job?”
Writing is a real job. Many companies hire writers to market their ideas, come up with slogans, and write their blogs.
We may not work 40 hours a week (with research it’s more like 60), but we are doing a job and our livelihood depends on being paid.
Our customer service skills have to be excellent so we can provide exactly what our client desires. We have to be willing to change whatever details they want to make our product worth coming back for, again and again.
We have to be self-governing, excellent at time management, and file taxes as an entrepreneur. All while juggling our personal lives.
Just because something isn’t normal to the masses, doesn’t make it less valuable or tangible.
“Be careful, writers don’t make much money”
Actually, some of us do. With only two to five years of experience, a good writer can make a dollar a word in some fields of writing. Yes, $500 for 500 words, and it takes about an hour to write an article of this length.
So that’s $500 an hour, not bad for a “hobby”.
You have to conduct a really thorough job hunt and be able to write a very good sample but good-paying work is out there if you work hard to build an excellent body of work.
People have this misconception about writers being poor but we do okay. With the addition of blogging and social media, the internet has breathed new life into the industry of journalism.
The poor writer stereotype is old, tired, and untrue.
“Really, You’re a writer!? How did you do it? I want to be a writer too!”
I always cringe at this one. People really think that you can become a writer just because you want to, but writing is not an easy profession to just “slide” into. Not everyone has what it takes to write for a living.
When this pastime turns into a career, this job takes tenacity, great attention to detail, excellent customer service skills, and the willingness to accept a massive amount of criticism.
You don’t need a college degree to become a professional writer. I honestly think excellent writers are born with the souls of artists because at the heart of the written word is art.
You can pay someone to teach you sentence structure, and grammar, but the ability to write words that invoke emotion in the reader is not a teachable skill.
Our path is not an easy way to “make it”, it’s a craft that we are constantly and consistently honing.
“We should collaborate, I have a great idea for a (blog, website, project), but I won’t be able to pay you for a while”
Would you ask a nurse or teacher to work on a project with you for free? Well, like these occupations, being a writer is a career. Why would we work for free?
Since my work started garnering more attention on social media, a few acquaintances have come out of the “word work”, wanting to collaborate. One person even attempted to take control of one of my projects and craft my image.
I obviously kiboshed that right away. My image is mine and no one else’s.
Like any other occupation, we want control of our career and we deserve to be paid.
This idea is only acceptable if the person is a close friend or you have previously expressed interest in working with them.
A project that is a passion of yours is never a waste of time, even if you do it for free.
You have to want to write about something for free. Otherwise, this person is attempting to take advantage of you and your clout as a writer.
When I told my parents that I wanted to pursue writing for a career as I stayed home with my daughter, which meant not utilizing my administration degree: I thought they were going to pass out.
Even now, as I am finishing up a 40,000-word self-help memoir and have acquired a well-paying journalism job, my father is supportive but still a bit skeptical of my new career choice.
My mother believed in me immediately and I’ll always be thankful to her for that.
My husband is very proud of the fact that I’m a writer but he didn’t tell his grandparents about my writing career because “People from that generation just don’t understand a job like yours, hun”.
My friends have all said something along the lines of “At least if it doesn’t work out, you have your degree to fall back on”. Meaning, “Well, give it a try and at least you have something more realistic you can do when you inevitably fall flat on your face”.
The idea of a career in the arts is scary for people who work in a conventional career field. It also may represent a missed opportunity to them, in their own lives.
After all, we all had dream careers as children, but we are actually living our dream.
A year ago, I wasn’t doing anything. I found Medium while researching true crime, and decided to write my first article on December 8, 2019.
Since then I have written 112 articles for Medium, obtained a couple of ghostwriting clients, written a 40,000-word book, and landed a full-time job as a journalist with a technology website.
Writing gave me self-worth, restored my faith in myself, and ignited a drive in me that no other job has or ever will.
If you have decided that you want to pursue writing as a job, treat it as a job. Do not listen to other’s opinions about your choice, and let the criticism from them fuel your fire to succeed.
Amy Sarah is a freelance writer who hails from a small city in Canada. She enjoys interacting with fellow writers, dreaming of ideas for her next article, and researching a myriad of topics.