The Evil (ish, but not really) Trifecta of Barriers between Writers and Money
You might be getting at the biggest problem in the industry, there. That’s indicative of the most prevalent of a trifecta of obstacles that seem to stand between writers and money: The apparent perception of forward thinking techies who design platforms that make publishing easy, and every benefit to reap from it the most hellish of trials.
Since I’m on it, here’s the whole trifecta (as I see it) in order of how much of a barrier they stand between writers and money:
- A failure in communication between techies who invent tools and writers who could be better at using them. Many writers are terrible at inventing things to spread their writing around. Not all, but many. I might venture the term “most” here. Let’s just say that most writers are terrible at inventing tools to spread their words around. We have to rely on tools invented by idealist inventors, who are themselves avid readers but not always impassioned writers. The tools they invent are purposed to make written words easily accessible. The proud inventors give the tools to the writers with a salute and, as far as many of us technologically not-savvy writers go, very little in the way of either support or instructions. For a lot of writers, that’s fine; they just want to write something and spread it around. For the rest of us, while we really, really appreciate all the tools, there’s a flaw. Starting with Mr. Pen, the dual-talented octopus hunter and bird keeper who invented the pen, and coming on through the centuries to Herr Gutenberg, and into the wild-west of the internet pioneers in the ’70s out in California, writers down the ages have appreciated every new tool. Let’s spread words! That’s been the attitude. All well and good…but some of us worked really hard on those words, to the exclusion of other things. Some of us would like, in addition to the tools, some reciprocity. We often don’t think of this as a one-way exchange, which is how the techies seem to present us with the tools. We produce something; it’s sometimes good to get something in return. The well-meaning and idealistic techies, God love them, do beautiful things for wordsmiths — always have. But they seem to misunderstand that need for reciprocal exchange.
- Any variation of the statement, “Don’t waste your time,” whenever it’s said in response to any variation on the statement, “I want to write for money.” Across all social groups I’ve ever encountered, there’s an inherent misunderstanding of how much work goes into writing anything. If done correctly, it’s as much of an effort as any other industry, and more work than many. It’s not easy. It’s hard. I’m reading Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft right now. At no point does he says it’s easy, even for him, to keep pushing and keep laying words down. At no point does he even hint that it gets easier with practice. Writing is hard, even if you’re making millions of dollars doing it. It’s rather painful.
- My godfather, who believes that all books are common property, and furthermore that they ought to be the common property specifically of people who appreciate them more than most people, specifically him. It’s a little funny, but it indicates a larger attitude that the written word ought to be common property.
There’s a through-line to this: A basic misunderstanding of the work needed to write anything even half-decent.