You’re let’s say, a shop assistant, or a taxi driver, or a farmer, or a bank teller, or a brain surgeon. You whinge about the poor pay, or the rude customers, or the long working day, or the dullness, or the stress – or all of the above.
Do those who hear/read what you have to say then berate you strongly for daring to whinge? You have no right to whinge! You are lucky! If you don’t like it, don’t do it!
Ok, so maybe nowadays with this economic climate, anyone who has a job is both privileged and lucky – but I don’t want to go there. Let’s stick to my point, which is:
Why is it considered a privilege to be a writer – and therefore not something you have a right to complain about? (Conversely, why is it not a privilege to be a farmer or a pharmacist?)
About writers one hears things like: You have been given a gift, how dare you then complain! You have no nagging boss, no set working hours, no travel time, you can dress how you please – and you dare to complain? You are paid for a talent other people would die to have! (Why is it assumed that if you write you were given that talent rather than had to learn and work at it for years until finally, finally, you produced something of value?)
Why am I ranting?
Because I read the comments section here, after a Guardian article where a number of writers talked about writing. (Thanks to Bibliobibuli for the heads up; she is a wonderful fund of info about things writerly.) What the writers have to say is interesting. Most of the comments are intelligent and interesting too.
And here are some of the others:
“If you don’t enjoy writing, spare the rest of us, and don’t bloody do it.”
“It amazes me how ungrateful these g*ts are for their incredible good fortune – makes me want to smack most of them! I work a 50 hour week in a demanding job, am raising kids and trying to keep up with all the other bits and pieces of my life, and I still make time to write because it’s such a joy. I should be so lucky to get paid for it too.”
“Thousands losing their jobs each week, countless more loathing whatever job they’re clinging on to, bosses breathing down their neck, sales targets to hit, pitiful commissions to earn….This piece is a wind-up, right ? Not very funny, guys. Get yerselves a proper job.”
“You’re a writer who doesn’t like writing? Go and work in a petrol station then. Twits.”
“…come across as terrible whingers considering they’ve been given this great gift.”
“…all you writers having to slave over your novels, if you’re not enjoying it, really, don’t do it.
I don’t think any decent books have come out of any of these whiners so there really is no need.”
Writers have just as much right to whinge as anybody else. Despise whingeing, per se, if you must, but don’t single out writers for doing it and imply they shouldn’t because they are writers.
Believe me, writing fulltime and professionally is just like any other job in many ways – you have to do it whether you feel like it or not, and it has the added difficulty that you only find in jobs that emphasize creativity: you have to produce certain emotions in others even when you are not feeling like that at all. Your beloved dog just died, your older kids have the flu, the baby has colic, your mortgage payment is behind, your partner is talking divorce and you just crashed the car and broke a finger – too bad. You still have to write that comedy love scene anyway.
Love it, hate it, sure I can’t do it, yeah all of those. Would I do anything else? Nope.