"When do you find time to write?"
|Even bishops need to eat|
For one thing, there's no choice. Writing is my job. It's where our money comes from. If I don't write, we don't eat. And we certainly don't build huge extensions. There's a persistent, entrenched belief that writing is somehow not real work, something that is fitted in around other bits of life, only done when there is time and inspiration, and - perhaps more understandably, given that starting point - is something that people don't really have to be paid for doing. And, to be honest, they might as well ask, "When do you find time to breathe?" Because people who write, also write because they have to.
But loving your work, or considering it a vocation, was never a reason for thinking surgeons, teachers and bishops shouldn't be paid.
We've seen a lot of comments recently in the press and online that people will still write even if they are not paid, because they enjoy writing. It's true up to a point. I would still write if I wasn't paid for it and had to do some other work. But I wouldn't write as much, and I wouldn't put as much time into honing and perfecting it (because I couldn't do the research if I was doing something else all day), and it wouldn't be as good if I didn't have the help of an editor. The people who can't see why writers should fuss about money rather than write in their spare time also only ever think of novelists sitting at home, 'penning' (you can tell a rubbish, unthought-out article about writing because it uses 'penning' at least once) made-up stuff about non-existent people, never pausing to do a speck of research but probably snuggled under a cat and nursing a cup of tea. Yes, people might well do that if they weren't paid. It sounds quite nice (except the tea). That's not what being a writer is, though.
|Amy Johnson's plane Jason - part of my research for my story in |
Daughters of Time, edited by Mary Hoffman, Templar, March 2014
It really is a very silly premise that we can leave writing to people who don't need to be paid for it and can 'find time to write'. Apart from anything else, it means that being a writer becomes an occupation only available to those who already have enough money, and who are time-rich. They aren't always going to be the most interesting voices, especially for young people - at least, not if ALL books are by that set. We need to reward people from all backgrounds and life situations who can write well, need to recognise that their talent and time have value. Because then all those voices can be heard and that benefits readers. Readers are what writing for publication is about.
|Starving in a garret for your art doesn't always end well|
It's a job. For some people, it's a part-time job. For some people, still learning, it's an apprenticeship or even an unpaid internship. Of course we all put time into learning the craft and breaking in when we are not paid, just as someone training to be a lawyer or a pharmacist spends years training. And the training for writing is, generally, writing things that don't sell - but you learn. You do your 10,000 hours and perhaps at the end your work is good enough (as in, saleable in the marketplace - this isn't about literary quality). And then you should earn money from doing it. That's how work works. You 'find' time to do your job and you're paid for it. End of.
aka Stroppy Author
Coming soon: "Colours of the Day", in Daughters of Time, edited by Mary Hoffman, Templar, 1st March 2014. Daughters of Time is an anthology of 13 short stories for readers aged 9+, written by members of the History Girls blog.