Writing for pay

Chris Dolan enumerates the many temptations for the fiction writer of freelance work that seems connected to creative writing, but actually is (as he sees it) a big boondoggle:

First, there’s teaching. Workshops, writers’ groups, readers’ groups, school visits. Film workshops, theatre discussion groups, poetry seminars. They don’t pay much, but one or two a week will feed a family of four, so long as you don’t want potatoes as well. . . .

Then there’s a whole array of little jobs that can bring an extra threepence. Reading manuscripts for publishers; writing blurb; judging competitions (though sometimes that pays nothing at all); radio and TV punditry (which might as well not pay, it’s such a pittance. But they might never ask you again . . .)

There are the career detours you never expected, but can sometimes work out all right. For instance, I never intended to write for radio; had no ambition to broadcast on either the wireless or the telly; or planned to write TV drama. Most writers — unless they have been successful quickly with their first medium of choice — make these interesting little long-cuts. . . .

The Big Daddy, though, of Temptation, of luring the innocent scribbler away from the comfort zone of his favourite project, is TV and film development.

I’m a hoary old hand at this freelance writing game but it still breaks my heart when I see — at a workshop, or reading or judges’ panel — a bright and bushy-tailed rookie run up to tell me about their “deal”.

It’s always some Bristol-based outfit that’s got hold of some Norwegian development cash, and they’re desperate darling, to make your novel/short story/play into a low-budget but high-profile feature.

Or worse, it’s the BBC.

Meanwhile, a copywriter defends day jobs, but thinks his coworkers need to stop trying to pretend the things they do at the office are important:

Hold the horse, my friends, I just finished up writing some copy about hemorrhoid ointment. Perhaps it’s time we dialed down the self-importance, gentle sirs, what say you.

(Via Donna at Confessions and The Morning News, respectively.)


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