Monday, November 05, 2007

One Strike and You're Out!

Over the weekend, I was reading a television forum that I frequent, and a slew of the posters were up in arms over the impending writers' strike. Not only were they furious that the writers were threatening to walk out, they were certain that if they - these posters in a silly forum about television ratings, many of whom frequently pepper their posts with misspellings and grammatical errors - could do a better job penning TV episodes than the current hired scribes.

Comments were posted along the lines of, "Come on, how hard can it be to write a sitcom?" Or, "God, anyone can be a writer, I mean, we all here could do their jobs."

To that I say: A. BIG. FAT. HA!

Now, because I just lurk in this forum and have no desire to join in the fray with some of these crazies, I didn't respond, but you can bet that my blood was boiling. Beyond the fact that I fully support the writers in their walkout, these comments just reiterated how the general public too often views our profession. Why is it that just about every person thinks that he or she could be a writer? Why is it that just about every person is certain that he or she could crank out a novel (as if!), be a freelance magazine writer (dream on!), or pen a successful television show or movie (even I don't kid myself about that one!)?

Here's the thing: just because you literally know how to write does not mean that you literally know how to write well. There is a huge distinction there, and one that so many people, too many people fail to understand. Including these idiots in that forum. Crafting a novel or breaking into the magazine world is hard f-ing work, and guess what? I'm also going to go on record to say that you have to have some innate talent to be able to do so. I'm not suggesting that I'm Hemingway or Ayn Rand or anyone like that: I'm not. But I'm also going to put it out there and say that not everyone can write well, and maybe that's a horrible thing to say and maybe it's not particularly pc, but just because you think that you have a novel in you (not you, dear Ask Allison readers, "you" meaning the general population) doesn't mean that, in fact, you do. And even if you defy the odds and actually write that novel (something that 99% of people do not), it doesn't mean that this book will be good. (With the understanding that "good" is subjective, and certainly, some people read my stuff and think that it's crap, and that's totally cool. But you get my point.)

Can you tell that I'm pissed? I am. Writers are too often discounted and thought of as second-class citizens, as if somehow, we have the job that the rest of the world could be doing if they only felt like it, and the truth is...this just couldn't be further from the truth. Which is part of the motivation behind the WGA strike: they're sick and tired of not getting the respect they deserve (as well as the money they deserve), and to them, I say, "hurrah." Does the strike suck? You betcha. Beyond the fact that come late-winter, my TV addiction is going to take a serious blow, the strike has affected potential personal projects, and I'm barely even connected to the industry. Hundreds of thousands of people will lose income and jobs, and all around, it sucks.

But the WGA writers are tired of being thought of as replaceable. And after reading some of the posts on the web this weekend, I can't blame them.

So, what say you? Why does everyone think that they can do our jobs for us? What do you think about the impending strike?


Unknown said...

I say Hear, Hear Alison. And I totally agree with you on the talent thing. You're right -- people don't want to hear it. When I was teaching freelance magazine writing, I began telling my students that persistence only goes so far -- at some point if you're sending out dozens and dozens of queries (or book manuscripts) and you're getting zero encouragement or only negative feedback, you have to ask yourself if you have the necessary talent to make it as a professional writer.

Unknown said...

Sorry, I meant ALLISON. I was writing to my other friend Alison a moment ago.

Anonymous said...

I agree Allison. I hate the thought of my TV shows shutting down, but the writers are the wizards behind successful television series and movies. They're the hidden "man behind the curtain", the heart of a story, and without them our favorite characters would just stand there mute (looking cute perhaps like my current crush George Clooney, but mute just the same!) Anyway, actors and producers make big bucks off the words writers craft and writers who write well should be rewarded well. Period.

Jen A. Miller said...

Funny you post this now. I told someone at brunch yesterday "I don't think I'm a great writer. But I'm excellent at writing what the client needs to have written and in the way they need it to be written." Freelance writing is as much client relations and marketing as it is sitting down and writing something. You could be the best writer on the east coast, but if you don't know how to work the business, you'll go nowhere.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Jen- I agree that marketing and client relations are absolutely critical. You can't succeed as a writer unless you're good at them, but conversely, I really do believe that if you don't have a decent product to offer, no one is buying. So don't sell yourself short! No one is saying we're the best writers in the world, but yeah, we're okay. :)


Larramie said...

Considering the staggering number of non-readers in our country, it's sadly funny that so many individuals think they can write at all. And as for the strike, where would these programs/movies be without those who can write well? Yes, exactly where we are now!

Sue said...

I kind of spoke on the same topic, different way today. The idea that anyone can be a writer bugs me. Hey, I can plug numbers into a computer, does that mean I can be an accountant? Or I can load software to a computer, so I must be qualified to be an IT person. Uh, no. And just because your mom thinks your writing is funny doesn't mean you are sitcom writer, either.

I agree with you wholeheartedly, Allison.

Denise said...

Right on sister!

Reminds me of one of my favorite Seinfeld lines, when George and Jerry are negotiating with NBC about doing a series, and when Jerry points out that George isn't a writer, George says, "What writing? It's a sitcom!"

I, thankfully, am not surrounded with people who think what I do is easy, but I hear those stories all the time. Jealous! They're all jealous!


Patti said...

to quote miss whitney, "oh hells to the no!"

writing can be taught. sure sure. but the passion that is in a writer's marrow, that cannot be taught. that is a gift. a holy calling.

hey, you asked!