Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Being 'A Writer'

More people from the UK aspire to being a writer than any other job, according to a new poll – about 10% of respondents. Sports personality, pilot, astronaut, and event organiser all came close behind.

But why? Do they already write and love it, and dream of being able to do it full time? Is it the attraction of ‘being your own boss’? Is it the joy of creativity coupled with the democratic nature of writing i.e. all you need is a pen and notepad? Or does it seem like an easy option for people who have never got beyond thinking about writing?

After all, writing can be a isolating experience and the difficulties of landing a publishing contract, let alone actually selling many books once you have one, are overwhelming.

The reality of the writing life is usually very different from the fantasy, as John Crace points out, even if it’s more than a little cynical to have that point made by someone who gets paid to write (and I expect he is very well paid!).


Jane Holland said...

Yeah, it's great being a travelling minstrel. Personally, I'd like to be a 'paid' writer more than anything else.

I performed at what seemed like a respectably prominent gig earlier this year, mentioning no names, and the cheque I was given afterwards promptly bounced when I paid it into the bank.

The person behind this fiasco was sheepish and apologetic. He promised me another cheque asap, but it never arrived.

Thus the poet's life.


Cailleach said...

Nothing easy about being a writer, as Jane points out - there's the years of apprenticing that you do first before you even consider yourself fit to hold the pen!

Maybe it's the glamour *runs for cover*

Matt Merritt said...

It got me wondering what type of writer they aspire to be - certainly journalism seems to be a hugely popular choice of job with young people (unfortunately, most get disillusioned and leave pretty quick).

Mark Yoxon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Yoxon said...

I think the allure of writing has got most to do with sheer egoism: the urge to express something immutably and inextricablyyou, and to preserve it.

Orwell's observations:

Rob said...

Jane, your experience reminds me of what it was like playing in a band in Glasgow bars and clubs and turning up to find double-bookings, non-payments despite promises, and somehow there were all those megastars out there making millions...

I suppose it's like anything. If you make it big, you are automatically more glamorous, sexy and rich than if you don't. If that's what people want, I guess it's no more difficult to make it as a writer than it is with any other job. Rock stars, business people, politicians, rock stars - they all have to push their way to the top one way or another.

Mark, thanks for the Orwell. I liked this:

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality."