Writing for free

If I worked in a ‘normal’ job, say at a checkout or in an office, I doubt I would be getting up every morning with a burning desire to start work, only to then spend the day procrastinating and putting it off, coming up with thousands of things to do beforehand or just staring at the office building once I did managed to get my sorry arse there, and then walking away in frustration and embarrassment. No, I would probably – and I know this from experience of having a ‘normal’ job – I would probably get up in the morning, and whether I liked it or not, I would get dressed, have my breakfast, and then show up at work. Granted, I may not be very motivated on some, or most days. I would most likely grumble when faced with things I don’t particularly enjoy doing but I would still get on with them, and once I got going, knowing myself, I would find something positive and exciting about it.

The thing is, I would do all that in a job, but then I would also get paid for doing it. And maybe that’s the difference between writers who treat their writing as a job, showing up every day no matter what and getting on with the least exciting parts of writing, and those writers who don’t get paid for their writing, or at least not enough to survive on. The majority of writers have to fit their writing around their other jobs, and other responsibilities. Compare this to everyone else, who plan their lives around their working hours. No wonder so many writers become blocked and demotivated. After a day of ‘proper’ work plus commuting, children and housework, eight hours of writing seem an impossible task. And yet that’s how much time we would devote to a ‘normal’ job in an office.

Our civilisation is fast and focused on money-making. On the one hand, it’s a good thing. We are creating a world that functions 24/7, a non-stop flurry of activity that is making humankind live longer and achieve more. On the other hand, if the consequence of longer life expectancy is that we would have to stay in work even longer, and the consequence of the 24/7 culture is that we never get a chance to enjoy our lives, then are we actually going in the right direction?

What would happen if the focus shifted from constantly doing something productive to time spent thinking, contemplating, talking? What if we paid artists and writers to do their important work, instead of making them suffer and prove they are good enough first? If we accepted that instant gratification isn’t always the best thing for us?

I recently read an article about happiness. Live simply, it said, and cheaply. Spend time with friends and family, do something you enjoy regularly.  And another, about the author Kate Mosse, who said that she gets up at 3.30am and writes for eight hours a day.

I won’t try eight hours a day. I’ll go for one hour. Nor the 3.30am, since that would only give me two and a half hours of sleep every night – I’m a bit of an owl. But I’ll do the living simply thing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Author: Maia Nikitina

Writer, reviewer, blogger.

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