The Burning Question: How Far Would You Go to Save Your Writing?

 

Firefighters rescued the survivors

Man photo created by jcomp – www.freepik.com

I come across intriguing and surprising things on social media just about every day. Today’s prize? This gem from the BBC:

Now, as you’ll see if you click on the link above and read the article, this piece is a few years old. But it showed up again on Twitter with just one question posed to writers–would you do what this guy did to save your writing?

Responses in the thread were mixed. But the majority of people had a common point. Why would you ever need to run into a burning building when there are tools like Google Drive that make it so insanely easy to back up drafts?

Dissenters gave two main rationales, the first of which was their choice of tool. The assumption is that writing will happen on technology like a laptop, but this isn’t always the case. Many writers prefer to draft on regular, old-fashioned paper, for example, while others use options like typewriters. In these cases, it’s the experience of the process that makes the difference.

Secondly, some writers mentioned that their writing needed plenty of revision away–that is, they simply didn’t have enough faith in what they’d produced to say they’d take a real risk for it.

Now, if you just think your work sucks and don’t care to save it, well, okay. That’s your choice. But I’d be quick to remind you that more than one writer has been shocked at their own success.

via GIPHY

And if you believe in yourself or at least have hope that someday you’ll have a draft others will care about as much as you do, then you have an obligation to figure out how you will create a backup for your work, whether that’s photocopies, to-self email attachments or the cloud. This is first and foremost because you need to respect both your life and the life of anyone who would try to rescue you in the emergency. But strictly from the standpoint of the craft, once a manuscript is lost, it’s usually lost forever.

 

via GIPHY

You owe it to your readers, be it current or those imagined for the future, to ensure that the worlds, characters and situations you envision will last beyond a lifetime.

So although the method is entirely up to you, just do everybody a favor.

Back that sh-t up.

 

The Editor’s Role

Editors have a bad rap. In the writing world, they’re often the stinky cheese in the refrigerator of fairness and creativity. But why?

During the editing process, it’s the editor’s job to tweak content in multiple ways. He first checks that everything is relevant to the topic and that the flow of the content makes sense. Then he starts making cuts or additions, trying to improve the amount of information or make the content more real to the reader. The final step is to check that everything is okay in terms of grammar, spelling and formatting. These steps often drastically improve a draft.

The trouble is, a writer takes writing personally. He gets attached to his creations, viewing them as little children who grow, develop and finally make their way into the world. When an editor starts fiddling with the content, the writer’s initial reaction is to wince rather than give thanks. It’s as if the editor is telling him he’s been a bad parent, as if all his careful effort still created one penny short of a dollar.

So the writer does what is natural. He shifts blame from himself to the editor, because it is only then that he can keep his self-developed illusion about his own mastery of his craft. The editor becomes the villain, and in the worst case scenario, the writer can’t help but argue with the editorial decisions as a means of defending his own ego.

The reality is, editors aren’t out for blood. They don’t purposely look for things to pick apart, and they certainly don’t like arguing with the writers with whom they work. They’d give their left kidney for a pool of clients who truly realized how much they want the writers to succeed.

So what does this mean for a writer? It means that, to really get good, collaborative effort going, to hone a text to the finest it can ever be, there has to be at least a little emotional distance from the writing so the editor doesn’t become the enemy. It is this distance that keeps the writer’s mind open to new possibilities, that lets him rationalize about what to do next and what writing path ultimately is best.

 

The High Cost of Low Copywriting Prices

As a professional copywriter, I use a plethora of sites such as oDesk.com to find work, fill my schedule and maintain a workable budget. Each of these sites has its own advantages and disadvantages based on its functions and features, but one thing that I’ve noticed across the board is low posters and bidders.

A poster is someone who submits a project on which someone can bid. For example, the poster might be New Company A who needs someone to write the copy for the business website. A bidder is anyone who makes an offer to work on a poster’s project. When acting in this capacity, it’s pretty standard to submit sample work and, on some sites, a cover letter. Posters decide who gets the job after evaluating all the bids they receive.

The first problem I’ve noticed is that posters overwhelmingly undervalue the projects they propose. I see projects such as $1 for a 500 word article on a daily basis. For me, a well-researched article of that length requires no less than an hour, so I figure that, at the very least, I should get an hour’s worth of the current minimum wage. Now, I don’t know many people who can work for roughly a mere 1/8 of minimum wage. I know I can’t. Yet, this is what posters often are willing to pay.

blog job posting
Would you be able to work for $1 an hour?

Several problems I see perpetuate pervasive low project pay. First, many, many writers are just getting started in the business. These writers need a few projects that will provide good references, so they’re willing to work on the cheap in order to beef up their resumes and seem more professional. Secondly, other writers are out of work or don’t have enough projects to fill a full-time schedule, so they bid low to compete with the newbies and take the projects they can manage to get. Lastly, copywriting has the capacity for global applicants. Bidders from outside the United States can afford to bid low because $1 goes a ton further in other countries than it does in America. Subsequently, posters outsource their projects, putting in a pay rate that doesn’t support American writers because they know writers elsewhere will work for less. In fact, some posters specifically ask for applicants from particular countries, typically the Philippines or India. It’s all about the bottom line of reducing operation and production costs.

Let me emphasize that trying to embark on a new career or support oneself is always admirable. I’m also not suggesting that companies should accept defeat and fold instead of looking for the cheapest option that lets the business survive. Still, when writers accept jobs that pay far less than the content and time is worth in their current region, they end up devaluing not only their own work, but also the skill and profession of writing itself. They end up perpetuating the clearly rampant view posters have that writing services, although needed, aren’t something to choke up hard cold cash for. This has to stop, or writers always will find themselves under-respected and underpaid.

Does standing firm on a higher bid mean you might not get as much work? Yes. You WILL be underbid. A lot. But without a willingness to stand firm, others won’t get the idea that you and your art really matter. Efforts to reform education and put writing and reading funding at the forefront will fail, and nothing in society will change.

Do not give up. Value your words. Value yourself.