Society seems to place writers — particularly freelance writers — on a lower plane than respectable professions like accountants, computer programmers, and dentists. Sure, we love people like Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton, but characters like these are few and far between. The same can be said when comparing a blue-collar worker like a plumber and white-collar worker like an accounts manager. Even if the plumber makes more money, the accounts manager is typically held in higher regard. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying that it is what it is.
I suppose writers of non-fiction garner more respect than those who toil in fiction, the latter of which are constantly striving to get their novels published and promoted. That may be true, but I know that much of the public doesn’t even see writing as a real job (I’ve said before that my dad doesn’t think my freelance writing is a viable career). It’s either something on the side for supplemental income or it’s just a hobby with entertainment and leisure value only. Looking at folks who take this trade a little more seriously — people like me, Chris Bibey, and Sharon Hurley Hall — you can plainly see that writing can be more than a hobby. It’s both a passion and a rewarding career. Yes, even in a monetary sense.
Contrast this perspective with the one depicted in Banana Boys by Terry Woo. Here’s an excerpt from page 92 of that novel:
In a culture that values professional success, social status and loads of money, writing is a craft that is disparaged because it isn’t conducive to these goals in the modern economy. Maybe a few centuries ago when the written word of the poet-scholar was considered sacred, even holy by the Chinese. But alas, with Chinese families, writing is ranked a few leagues below the prototypical emblems of success. There were times I wondered why I was cursed with an interest in something as useless and unproductive as writing. Why couldn’t I have been cursed with an interest in quantum physics or fixing eyeballs or balancing ledgers or something? It would’ve made life so much easier.
It might have been easier if I took a more conventional route. It may have been easier if I decided to pursue a CA designation or a PhD in Psychology (as my undergraduate degree would lead me to believe). Maybe I should have gotten into sales, human resources, or administrative work. But “easier” is not the point. I know that none of those would make me happy, because although I complain about being burned out from time to time, I love being my own boss and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It also certainly helps that writing is a passion for me, and it’s even better that I get to write about things I love like violent video games and funky technology.
Before you can convince your friends and family that freelance writing is not only a viable career, but also an enjoyable and lucrative one, you have to convince yourself of the same. Respect yourself and everyone (and everything) else will follow. I know that my dad is finally starting to take me seriously.