Friday, February 6, 2015

In defense of words


Why is it that words are valued so much, and yet so little?

I've been thinking about this lately, probably because I need more hobbies and also because words are roughly 89.6 percent of my entire life. (The rest is coffee. Um, I suppose the family is in there somewhere, too.) I write for a newspaper. The majority of my free time goes to reading or writing this blog. Words, words, beautiful words!

I'm not the only one who loves words. The world is filled with writers and readers. Even those who don't consider themselves writers or readers have to read and write. Take my darling husband as an example: He's a county planner, and he isn't a reader or a writer, and yet, he spends the majority of his day writing staff reports and reading... um, planning related stuff, I assume. I really need to pay more attention. But anyway, you get my point.

Probably about a year ago now, when I was up at the front counter, I had a guy come in all pissed because one of our sister publications had the audacity to have a paywall up on their website. First of all, if you're going to complain, dude, complain to the right paper. (Obviously I haven't gotten over this encounter yet.) But then I was all, wait a minute, you are essentially telling me that you WANT the news, you just don't want to pay for it.

He wanted a service so much he was willing to come in to complain about the lack of service, but not enough to shell out the $1.99 or whatever it is for a week's worth of online news. I thought that was interesting. Why don't we want to pay writers?

We happily pay dentists and accountants and farmers. (Well, the farmers probably are in a similar boat, actually, so never mind that one.) We'd never schedule an oil change and expect not to pay for the work. Or to a stylist and then balk at the cost of the haircut. We pay $5 for one cup of coffee, internet friends, and we don't even give that a second thought. I actually consider it money well spent.

Seriously, though, any ideas why this is?* I was all up in arms about the discrepancies here myself until I realized I do the same damn thing. I like to read free news sites and blogs. I like to get my Kindle books for the cheapest possible price and bitch when they're "expensive." I WANT words--not to be overly dramatic, but I need words to live--so why don't I want to pay for them?

And more importantly, pay the people who came up with the words. You guys, the words are (usually) easy for me to come by--I just sit down and let them do the talking (and then get pissed and frustrated when they decide to take a break. Writer's block is such a drag)--but that doesn't mean I don't work hard when I'm writing. It takes me an average of two hours to write a blog post (although I've been working on this one on and off for about a week. Well, it's more complicated than my normal faire). It probably takes me between two and five hours to write the average news story, which doesn't include interview time. When they're more complicated, they can take an entire day. Or more.

Or less. Sometimes you just have to push a story out the door and be okay with that.

I have no idea what the time frame is for other writers, but who cares? Writing is a service, and doesn't it follow that my services should be compensated? Not that I particularly care about money, mind you, but I do care about feeding and clothing and sheltering my kids. My words help do that in our family.

So you know what? I've given up bitching about having to pay for the words I read. You want me to pay $9.99 for an ebook? I'm on it. A whole 99 cents for a newspaper article? Fine. Writers do not make very much--my words might help our family, but Eric's job is what really allows us to live in a house and buy food and clothes and, like, cat food for Skilly and coffee for me.** I have a feeling that very little of my 99 cents OR my $9.99 actually makes it to the writer, but hey, it's the first step to acknowledging that words are worth something.

Words are worth everything.

On a related note, my friend Mara is an indie author with two (and hopefully soon to be three) books out there in the world. She wrote a great blog post recently about the importance of reviews to writers. I've been trying to be better about that, too--it might not be monetary support, but it does show that words are valuable enough to me that I will take the time to let others know what I thought of a book, maybe inspiring more sales.

Um, the end, I guess.

*I have a theory, now that I think about it, especially when it comes to ebooks or internet apps: Because you're not getting something tangible to hold in your hands, like a real book or newspaper, you feel like you're paying for nothing. Unfortunately, writers have to take the time to craft that story or news article no matter what medium you read it on. You're paying for their time, not a physical object. I know, it's weird.

**I make about a poverty-level wage, which is fine when your husband is a government employee, but maybe not so great for those trying to actually make a go of it without that kind of financial backup. To put it in perspective, my college-aged nephew makes more per hour at his entry-level summer job than I make in my professional career. And while I really love my work... it would be nice to be able to support myself without help is all.

No comments: