Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dear Successful Writers: Please keep your snobbery to yourselves

A common sentiment among writers is that the nonwriters just don’t get us. They don’t know what it’s like to be a writer, what it takes to be a writer and how hard we have to work in order to get somewhere as a writer. It’s that last part that I can relate to. Years ago, I’d get criticized by family members for being on the computer so much, especially after my first child was born. And I would tell them, “I’m working!” Or that I was writing. And they weren’t happy that I’d try to squeeze in some work while on vacation, either. Oh, yeah, I have TOTALLY been there as far as being criticized by family for the things I do as a writer. But they’re not writers themselves, so I’d remind myself, They don’t get it.

But this week, I came across a statement directed at all writers. And this particular statement came from a writer. And in this case, I may be able to shrug it off and say “She doesn’t get it.” But she should have. I was really fired up over the snobbery behind her message. It just really got to me because I was once in that situation as a writer.

Some background.

When I first started as a freelance writer, I made it my goal to get published in the glossies. I did not JUST want to be a freelance writer; I actually had a goal in mind. I wanted to accomplish something as a freelance writer. I got sooo excited by all the talk successful freelancers kept doling out about how if THEY can get a six-figure check or land an assignment at one of the glossies, then I can do it, too! Oh, gee! Sign me up! Yeah, I was really taken in by all their talk. I read their stuff and I did what they did.

I was so taken in, in fact, that I spent ten years of my life TRYING to accomplish the same thing they did. That’s right. TEN. YEARS. And I wasn’t just sending out the occasional query whenever I felt like it or not reading those magazines.

This was what my life was like during those ten years:

I was working at the computer for AT LEAST 8 hours Monday through Friday, researching markets, learning EVERYTHING I could about writing a good article, sending out queries and brainstorming for ideas. I was also networking with other writers. I kept an Internet presence. I tried like heck to get my name everywhere, to get my name KNOWN, just so editors at those big-name magazines would recognize me.

And I did that for ten years.

Did I manage to get one article into one of those major magazines?

Nope. Not one!

I did get into a few national magazines, and that was great, but I never really broke through the surface. I never made it.

And I wasted ten years of my life TRYING to make it.

And after 10 years, I threw in the towel. I decided this freelance writing thing just wasn’t working for me anymore. So I quit.

Now, after having been through that, and after being forced to work for low pay only because I had to help support my family, I couldn’t help but get a little fired up over this writer lashing out at other writers who write for low pay and think they’re work is not good enough to TRY to write for a higher paying market. It bothered me because, first, I HAVE tried, and I felt she was wrong to get up on her high horse and judge all the writers toiling away for peanuts and acting like they’re not even trying to get paid better for their work. It also bothered me because I HATED writing for low pay when I wrote for a content mill, but it was WORK, and I needed the work. It was REGULAR work. It brought in good money that helped my family A LOT.

Yes, I probably COULD have decided to not try to get a job that required writing and, instead, try to get a job as a waitress or secretary or grocery store clerk, or something like that. And here again is where I have the whole “I already TRIED to do all that!” answer for them. I have tried applying for several nonwriting jobs and not one of them came through. One lady even told me that if I had been able to communicate on the phone, she would have hired me for the job. But she had to stick that whole “I can’t hire you because you are deaf!” sign in my face and tell me to take a hike.

So, I took the job that I COULD get: Writing for a content mill. And it was a good thing, anyway, because I was able to prove to myself that, going back to something like that, I could do it even better than before.

I don’t regret ever going there, because I did it for my children, and I really become irritated by writers who thumb their noses at those of us who don’t even have a choice. I have had writers I have known who became successful who dropped me because of that gig. They decided they lost all respect for me and became these huge snobs that gave me the cold shoulder.

But, you know what? As a writer who had small children at home, I did what I had to do. At that time, we were struggling financially, and I had to help out. I took the work that I could get because it helped put food on the table, buy the kids clothes and keep the electricity on. That’s what we writers who aren’t such a huge success have to do when we have children. (This particular writer IS a mother, but her kids have grown up and left the nest. She is actually a grandmother now.)

So to those other writers out there, the successful writers who have made it and who think they can judge other writers who are trying to earn a living any way they can, I say this: Get off the snob bandwagon. Stop putting us down. Think for a minute that maybe we ARE trying to get into a better paying market. Or that we have already tried. Don’t look at us and trash us for doing whatever it takes to keep our kids fed. We are doing the best that we can. We are SURVIVING.

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  • At 1:28 PM , Blogger Henry Conrad said...

    I believe you have placed the eternal hammer-head firmly on the nail-head in this epistle, with gusto and panache. Bless you for having a firm voice and your priorities in order

  • At 9:01 AM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Thank you. I appreciate the comment. It has taken me a long time and I had to go through a lot, but I am finally at a place where I know what is worth my time and what isn't.


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