What are you really?


Sorry, what?

That’s UK English for ‘What’re you talking about?’.  In this case, what I’m going to go on about is the various names for and meanings of “writer”.   Due to my own position, I learned at some point to describe myself as being ‘a writer’.  Well, while it was true, I can’t say that it has done any good.  The reason for that, is that the vast majority of professional writers are not called writers, and they don’t describe themselves that way at parties.

I was young and naïve when I began as an amateur and happy student and also early on when I started getting paid, at least now and then, for writing something or for having written something.  Now, I wouldn’t say it’s that I haven’t grown up, but there is some kind of weird vibe.  I think the weird vibe is when one develops a sense of self that isn’t simply the job title of an occupation but then does try to apply it or to at least continue to use it during gainful employment.

Amateurs and Professionals

Let’s just say that getting published despite significant or tremendous competition is considered to be some kind of legitimate achievement amongst people who write and those who actually respect people who do.

I admit that it was thrilling for me to get published offline, and with considerable competition even when the only payment was recognition or a copy of the book that I wrote a review of for the magazine.  Despite that, I always wanted to write so as to be paid well even though I also wanted to write with 100% personal integrity, rather than feeling that I’d sold out on myself.

Brief aside about “selling out” and “selling out”

This can actually be horrible or fantastic.  For instance, currently, I have works of which I am the author which I want to sell out of, thanks to having found real live paying customers who want to read the novels and I want them to feel afterwards, that it was well worth the money they spent.

It is also true, that often when people say, “selling out” they mean in the much worse sense of the phrase.  They mean the painfully sad story of exchanging one’s values for material security or happiness or success.  It is a sorrow that can be spiritual degradation with age, instead of becoming better with age or at least staying the same.  It can be a sorrow that is actually merely ego-related.

Poetry and Op-ed where they meet

Poetry and Op-ed writing are examples of terrain where many who do work within the field frown upon those who are paid to do it almost as condescendingly as people tend to treat prostitutes despite the weird similarities that every good wife gets paid for by her husband, and prostitutes are single women who get paid by their lover even when it isn’t only one who is her husband.  Well, poetry is strangely similar.  There have been many women poets thrilled to be recognized for their poetry and are proud to be published, who find it rude at best, and evil at the worst, for anyone to be a paid poet/ess.

Opinion and editorials, letters to the editors, and much of online writing goes unpaid.  The majority of people looking for honest opinions about books, prefer to read ‘unpaid reviews’ hoping in an often corrupt world, to find some objectivity, honesty and truth.

That granted, there has always been and still is something to be said for real professionalism.  Not surprisingly, more adult male poets are able to publicly seek pay for their poetry without being scoffed at by the general public.  Even so, one of the greatest poets of all time, William Blake, was forced to work a day job in an unrelated field.

In that respect, William Blake comes across as a heroic artist of the middle classes and as a suffering, real, artist, forced to hold down a day job even though he really was one of the greatest poets to ever live, and one of the greatest of his generation.  Humility in greatness, or just depressing facts about how the world really works?  You decide.

The bottom line may be: that’s how tough it is to earn a living from poetry.

Culled 11 Dec. 2018 from the Penny Hoarder online: average pay for a greeting card writer is $51,000/year when doing it full-time, as a staff writer: 2 to 20 cards per week, every year, year after year.

Now, admittedly, that’s a respectable income.  Envision your life and the looks you will get at parties or family reunions if when someone asks: what do you do?  Should you say, “I’m a writer,” and let them ask for any details, or should you tell them, “I’m a greeting card writer,” or would you feel less dirty or more proud-yet-secretive if you tell them that, “I work for Greeting Card Producing Company X.”  If they ask, you can divulge – maybe after a 2nd glass of wine, “I write greeting cards.”

No, not at all; actually yes

I know that sounds a little crazy, but in truth it’s that I have met professional grant writers in real life who seemed either incapable of believing themselves to be a kind of professional writer or unwilling to admit to it.  They did seem willing to be the “I have a job at Such-n-Such a Company,” type of writers.

This is only the beginning

There is so much more to the various mysteries of what happens with “writers”, including those with professional aspirations.  As for myself: thanks to events in 2015, I became qualified for at least 2 years to call myself a “journalist” which was a first for me.  I could also claim to be a freelance article ghostwriter, a professional ghostwriter for books, a professional editor, a copy writer, and an author of poetry, short fiction.  As of 2005 I could call myself someone who successfully completed the Writer’s Bureau creative writing course.  I call WB a trade school because it is exclusively to develop people into writers who get paid for their writing.

If it’s me, you could also say I’m an author and ghostwriter of books.  Just do a search here at my blog, or online to find works of which I am the author which are for sale.  Volunteering is nice, but not being paid for working is exploitation or slavery.




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