Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Best Advice For Writers, "Say The Lines, Cash The Check, And Buy Yourself Something Nice"

As writers, we sometimes get caught up in the bullshit of our own reputations. We buy into the idea of the noble storyteller, or the tortured typist, sweating under the strain of our own ideas. We cast ourselves as the suffering artist who is trying to take the universe in our heads, and show it to the rest of the world the way we see it. And when we have to lower ourselves to write ad copy, or to write blog entries for clients paying us money to do our jobs? Ugh, the insult of it all! That we should use such great talents for such low, base ends.

Gonna lay some wisdom on you, here. This comes from Jon Pertwee, a fellow who once starred in an odd little sci-fi show called Doctor Who. When he was on the show, some folks he knew told him to do something very smart. "Say the lines, cash the check, and buy yourself something nice."

It's in this interview, in case you're curious.

The next time you find yourself rubbing your temples, and ready to send your client a strongly-worded email about how stupid their whole project is, remember these words. And remember that you are not some great genius intellect to whom the tides of creativity bow. You are, very likely, just a person with a pen who was willing to do the job.

Not Everything You Write Will Fulfill You

One of the major reasons that I'm a writer, instead of a security guard, a cashier, a stocker, or a landscaper, is that writing is the job I like the most, and which I have the best track record with. And sure, there are some times where I've been working on a story, or writing a script, when I got that rock star feeling of being the gifted man doing great work.

Most of the time, though, that's not how it feels. Because the bulk of my day is not spent working on novels, short stories, YouTube scripts, or RPG guides. Most of my day is spent writing for clients. Because they need content, and I need to eat, so we can help each other out.

A couple of 600-word posts? Sure, I guess I can get 'em to you by Friday.
Now, I like eating. I like having happy landlords. So, when a client presents me with a job my primary concern is what I'm being paid to do it, and whether I feel my talents are up to snuff. If the job's fun, well, that's a bonus. But I'm not being paid to have fun. I'm being paid to create a product that will get my clients money. Whether that means a world guide that will sell copies, a blog post that gets traffic, or a novel that flies off the shelves, I am only as valuable to my clients as the end results my work creates.

I'm a mercenary, through and through.

Still, it pays to remind myself that my clients aren't here to feed my ego. They aren't giving me work to do so they can watch the glory of my process, or marvel in my creative genius. They're paying me to do a job. And if I do it well, then they're going to pay me the next time a job comes up. And the next, and the next.

Because brilliance is a lot more common than you think, but reliability is what builds your rep. So the next time you find yourself staring at the screen, muttering about how this job is beneath you, or about how you should just tell your client to stick it, take all that spare energy, and put it into the project. Hit the word count, turn it in, and when the check clears, treat yourself. Go get a milkshake, have a cheeseburger, or check out that latest flick at the movies. Whatever will make you happy, use your check to remind yourself that you earned this with nothing more than words.

It helps keep things in perspective. Both the good, and the bad.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. Hopefully it helped folks who, like myself, need to let the air out of their egos every other Thursday. If you want to stay on top of all my releases, then make sure you follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. If you want to help support me and my work, then stop on over at The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron today.

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