Writing Shouldn’t Be Your “Get Rich Quick” Scheme
People who treat writing as nothing but business are missing the point
It seems like no matter where I turn my eyes, I am bombarded with clickbait “articles” with “rules” about how to maximize the attention that my writing gets. Every day, I watch the internet damage the integrity of one of the noblest professions. These pieces that I see all have the same catchphrases paraphrased differently, featuring weak, common-sense advice on getting features on websites.
Make sure your work is grammatically correct and be sure to use spell check!
Use a high-quality image and don’t forget to cite the image source!
Remember: writing isn’t profitable unless you keep writing and gain a following over time.
There is nothing in these articles about the trademarks of quality writing other than the outright advice to churn out “good writing”. (What is good writing, anyway?). It’s mere fluff that will garner enough clicks to eventually gather enough reads to someday make writing profitable. Maybe we think to ourselves: if I read this, I’ll learn something new. There must be a secret that I don’t know yet! For me, that has never been the case.
After reading all of this drivel and realizing that pieces about writing are probably the biggest commodity to writing communities, I feel bamboozled. Is writing about writing the only real way to make money off of writing? I read a lengthy thread on a forum the other day about how writers should avoid publishing fiction online because it isn’t commercially viable enough. I’m dizzy.
Why did you start writing? I began when I was in high school with short prose pieces and some very idealistic poetry. Perhaps it was mostly childish, but I carried my love for it with me all the way to my twenties and have no doubts that I want in on the competitive business of making my mark on the world with words.
I’m ready to put in the work and know that the only way to start is to earn my keep by being a “starving artist” for a while. I have two jobs aside from my writing. I wholly believe that I’m paying my dues and that things won’t be like this forever.
Why else would I have been given hands if not to write?
Writers should be encouraged to try. Writers should be encouraged to fail, too. Even if we have no confidence in ourselves, we should be able to work without putting ourselves in a box and only creating with the intention of making money. How will we ever get better at our craft if all we seek is money?
I know that I write better with fewer rules and that my style is severely impacted when I fret about curation by online publishers. Making money from doing things that I love may be the ultimate goal, but I know deep down that I need to acquire mastery before I can have that pleasure. Anyone being sold the idea that they can have money before mastery is being fooled.
This is the whole reason why we pay for college degrees and certifications. This is the whole reason why so many jobs require experience and references. There needs to be proof of learned proficiency before we can get our hands dirty.
When we’re writing, there is no one to send an application to with proof of schooling. It’s incredibly difficult to build an ethos in the first place, and if your portfolio looks like it’s composed of nothing but clickbait parodies, you will never build that ethos. I know this because I am an avid reader and nothing makes me more irate than seeing the same article over and over again.
Some people make tons of money writing about writing online and that’s what works for them. But those people paid their dues in order to be able to make you care enough to click on their article.
Don’t be gullible. Anyone who tells you that you can make a killing off of writing isn’t lying, but anyone who tells you that there are surefire ways of doing it today — instantly, overnight — is capitalizing on your self-doubt. (Trust me when I say that they know you had ramen for dinner five nights this week).
I write these things as a person who has been curated approximately once and is still waiting to receive the love that they think they deserve for their work. I may not be an expert at succeeding in this game, but I’m a newbie who’s becoming a regular at the act of trying. For me, that’s enough.