On Being a Professional Writer

It’s happening in newspapers, magazines, and (most of all) the internet. Editors and publishers are trying to avoid paying their writers. When friends see one of my articles in a newspaper, they often ask “Are you paid to write that?” (For the record, the answer is always the same: YES!) Presumably, they assume that this is just a fun thing I do. Actually, I have to make a living this way.

It’s becoming more difficult. Why pay a professional writer, when there are so many aspiring writers willing to offer their work for free? That way, they hope to gain exposure, so that they can be “real” writers. Presumably, this means that they would eventually write for a living – in which case, they make it difficult for themselves. The BBC game show “QI” recently did something even more appalling: they used eBay to auction off a chance to write a special episode of the series! Yes, that’s right – the winner could pay for the chance to write for them! We’d all like to write for a popular TV show, but writing is meant to be a profession. Shakespeare, believe it or not, was not a starving artist, but a highly skilled professional, who wrote commercial plays with his audience in mind. (It has been said that, if he were alive today, he’d be writing for television.) One of his most acclaimed comedies was called “As You Like It, or What You Will” – a title that had nothing to do with its storyline, but everything to do with the audience.

Of course, it’s not so easy to break in to the writing business, so I can understand the temptation to write for free. Sadly, this just devalues the craft. If you want to be a writer, you are not “selling out” by accepting money for your services. You are being a professional!

Having said that, I do occasionally write for free. In fact, I’m writing THIS article for free. But that’s because I feel strongly about the topic, and because I’m writing for friends. A plumber might happily fix his friends’ drains, but everything else is charged, thank you very much. If you would rather use your resident home handyman, who works for nothing, you will get what you deserve. If you want to be a “real” writer, make sure they you have developed that skill to a professional level…

Then do what any professional does: CHARGE for your services.

Article By: Noivedya Juddery. 24/01/07

Noivedya Juddery is a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Australia. He is a professional writer and has had several articles and books published

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