Friday, April 20, 2012

Writers Should Stop Making It Look Easy

As a writer, and like many writers I know, I have a tendency to make it look easy. That's a huge mistake I am constantly trying to overcome.

When a client asks me to write a 500 word article and deliver it within a few hours I will do everything in my power to produce that article and deliver it within the time frame allowed. Sometimes I lose control of myself and say things like, "no problem."

Shame on me. It was a "problem" and I should make that clear.

By making it look easy I am essentially telling the client that it is easy; that I didn't struggle, sweat, scramble and wrack my brain to produce their work. This belies the truth about the skills I possess and gives the impression that doing it is no more difficult than if I had been given ample time and resources. It also means, from the clients perspective, that writing is easy.

Writing is not easy, as you well know, and judging by the continuing efforts of those who employ writers to pay less and less, and find alternatives to professionally produced work, we are already fighting an uphill battle when it comes to content production. If we make it look easy we are doing ourselves and our profession an injustice.

As a writer I find it difficult to imagine a life where I would be unable to compose a sentence, a paragraph; find the right words to illustrate my point; or compose a well-written article that correctly expresses the point of view I am trying to get across to the reader. But that is exactly what life is like for a great many people who struggle with writing. Despite the fact writing comes easy to me, it does not come easy to a large number of people. In fact, not only can they not write well, they have no conception of what it actually takes to write well. They think it requires only a good grasp of spelling and grammar. They can't even conceive of the effort, the concise skill required to produce effective prose.

Writers are artists, not robots. Can computer programs sort and collate data and produce readable text? Yes. Can they relate a story on a human level which touches on spirit, compels people to action or evokes an emotional response? No. Only a human writer can do that, and only after a good deal of blood, sweat and tears.

So the next time you meet a writing assignment on deadline, and feel compelled to crow about the ease with which you met it, do yourself (and all of us) a favor and don't. In the meantime, I'll do the same.


Steven Solomon said...

Always follow the Sr. Engineer Montgomery Scott Rule. You say, "Captain, I cannoh do it in ten hours!" Then you do it in eight and let the captain know that you had to violate the laws of physics to get it done. Then you raise your rates.

Jerry Battiste said...

Great point! (And an extra bonus, you made it with a Star Trek reference!!)

Willie Pena said...

Yeah, good points. I have made a concerted effort to eliminate "no problem" from my responses because it IS a friggin problem to do rush jobs or do extra work for nuthin'

I think I will have to write a post about your post this week!

Anne said...

Teachers are guilty of the same crime with their students. The crime of making writing look easy. When modeling we preplan and rehearse before writing in front of students. The message we send is this is easy instead of the reality which is we have sweated blood and tears thinking about what we will write in front of them.

Jessica said...

Completely agree! Writers also need to be confident in their rates. As far as producing a 500-word article in a few hours, it can be done but I know it wouldn't be my best work. I need at least a day to let my writing rest between writing and finalizing the piece.