Updated: Jul 15
Ah, the life of a writer. What are we except an entertainer's punching bag. We write scripts, don't get paid enough for them, and then, some much more attractive actor spouts our words on a screen and suddenly they're rich and famous. And here's the real kicker - most often nobody knows who wrote the words coming out of that dandy talking head.
There was a time when writers were revered. Back in the day of the musical theatre greats like Rodgers and Hammerstein and Bock and Harnick. We can thank Lin-Manuel Miranda for allowing people to return to a time when a WRITER was a household name, but then Lin is an incredibly talented performer/director too. So what's a writer to do?
I hear writers whining a lot - okay, mostly it's me whining to myself about the career path I've chosen (or to my cats about why they can't actually kill a bug once in awhile and earn their keep). But I digress. I do whine a lot about pursuing a career as a writer and, when I teach workshops to young children who are brimming with potential I try not to tell them that they eventually will want to burn all of their writing and go work as a gas station attendant to get the gas to burn their stuff because they're so broke they can't buy gas or food or... Okay, it's not that bad, but sometimes it feels that bad!
I started this business to help other writers. That was my mission. And while I know the business will do well eventually, I know the first place I want to start with writers is with the truth.
The truth is people want your work if you're a good writer, but you have to fight for the pay you deserve. And when I say fight, I do mean that legal kind of fight that writers hate. It's that 'lawyer up, have representation look at your contract and talk that legal smack jargon you can only write about' kinda fight. No writer wants to do this. Most writers are nice, trusting people who assume that a contract is legit because they're just so happy to get a contract. Spoiler alert - my first published book was with a publisher who worked with me on a contract. I did, in fact, take it to a lawyer and it was legit. She just failed to honor said contract. It was then I started talking to other authors she had published - all of them who hadn't seen their royalties either. The funny part was, she had put us all together on a panel at Barnes and Noble, I guess never suspecting we might actually ask each other if any of us had been paid. To make a long story short, we all banned together to get our rights and royalties back. And I decided to start a publishing company to help writers avoid these kinds of pitfalls.
Still writers have a reason to whine. What other profession seems as impossible? Every corner we turn there is a gatekeeper (often in the form of another writer) waiting to discard our manuscripts in the slush pile never to be seen again, or a rejection letter coming in the mail or, worse yet - no response at all. So what can we do?
Well, in the words of Garrison Keillor,
"Nothing bad can ever happen to a writer, because if it does, they can write about it." It is our pain that makes us publishable. I say take up that pen and put that agony on paper. Start your own blog, or post funny quips (out of your pain) on your socials - you never know who might read it, and it's yet another outlet for getting our work out there and seen.
I used to write a blog called Dear Dick which was essentially based on all my failed first dates (and there was a lot of them), but what I found was it was a great outlet for my frustration and I got a lot of comments on how funny it was. (It actually helped me land the one first date that worked).
So, to recap, whine all you want - you're a writer - you get a pass. But then you have to write about whatever it is that's causing you pain! Just make that pen bleed onto the paper because that's when catharsis starts. And when you know you're worth as a writer, it will be easier to get a paycheck (and believe me the first one - however big or small) is one you will most likely frame and hang up where everyone can see it when they visit.
"Yea, that's my first paycheck for my play/screenplay/novel/song/blogpost" whatever. It's the first one. It only makes getting the second one easier.