Writing is an important skill. Writing is more than the ability to write the alphabet and string the letters into words. Writing is the way we express ideas. It is an important tool in our society from writing business letters, making deals, interviews, pitching projects to writing sermons and stories.
Schools would teach creative writing in the lower classes. But then as students got older, this was phased out in favor of business writing, pitch papers and essays. These pitch papers and essays were touted as important skills that students needed to learn to survive in the university environment and the bigger world. And the ability to tell a story, which is what the basis of these essays and pitch papers were really about, became lost and ‘less important’ in the scheme of things. (The structure of an essay is just as important as a structure of a story.)
Writing, storytelling, the ability to string words together into a cohesive, coherent whole with a beginning, middle and ending isn’t valued. The idea that writing a book is work is actually laughed at. Writing if it isn’t journalism or scientific papers is not considered a viable career. We recommend our children become doctors and lawyers. People who follow protocols and rules, instead of encouraging to be creative and think freely.
For some reason there is a prevailing attitude in our society that anyone can write a novel and be good at it. Media encourages this view. I can think of two shows that I like off the top of my head about how Doctors, a Medical Examiner and a Forensic Anthropologist are both writers. Media has pushed that these two fact loving rational people have the creativity to write novels and write novels well that apparently have emotional appeal that connect to audiences. (I am still trying to figure out after 11 Seasons of Bones when Brennan actually has time to write these novels. And I’m not sure now when Maura has time to write her novel.)
They put forth this message that writing a novel is relatively easy and fame is assured once you’re published. However, I find it hard to believe that both of these very analytical characters are able to connect to an audience. With Brennan they try to explain that Angela is her “human editor” and comes up with the scenes that aren’t fact driven. It really burned me that they showed Clark Edison getting a novel deal while they used excerpts on how horrible writing was for laughs. They also cut out the fact he’d need an agent, not go to the publisher’s directly. They made it seem even horrible writers could easily get a book deal. Thankfully, this was never brought up again. (Maura got a critic from her editor that her characters were flat and her setting didn’t come alive and I cheered. Yes, constructive criticism that made sense!) Even the procedural Castle, who was about a writer assisting a homicide detective, used a writer who was already successful and just suffering from writer’s block. At least he seems to understand story and has emotional grounding to connect to an audience. But they still avoided that it takes time, effort, talent and learned skill to write a novel. (Castle always wrote off screen.)
There are a lot of people who believe that they can write a novel despite not having done any creative writing since third grade. (I think I may have done some creative writing in ninth grade for class but I went to a private high school.) A lot of people think that they have a novel in them. Without thinking through the entire process or knowing how a novel is structured. And if they’re willing to take the time to learn about structure and put the effort into sitting down and writing. Then more power to them, yay, more people being creative. However, most people do not have the fortitude or the desire to write novel even if they think they can. So those that do take the time and put forth the effort to write a novel, even if it isn’t the greatest novel aren’t taken seriously because “anybody can do that.”
No. It takes skill. It takes knowledge. It takes a certain amount of talent. And it takes practice. You have to learn to do it by doing it over and over again. I started writing in seventh grade and my first story was a horrible piece of shit that had no conflict and no hardship. For a very long time I was so conflict adverse, I could barely put it into my stories. I have chapters and chapters of stories on my laptop that have great characters, great worlds, but are in the end boring because there was no conflict. Dialogue, conflict, action, world building, characters, each of these ideas takes a certain amount of time and ability to do properly. It doesn’t come easily or naturally. It can be tiring and difficult and depressing. One has to learn to do it. Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you fail. It’s work. (And I find it fun, oh woe is me.)
I’m not a lawyer. I haven’t learned the law code. I wouldn’t want to represent myself in court. I’m not a doctor. I don’t know more than super basic anatomy. I wouldn’t perform surgery on myself or anyone else. I’m not a plumber. I can’t fix the leaks in my pipes. I haven’t learned that skill. And I don’t expect my plumber, lawyer, doctor to be able to write even as I value their services as plumbers, lawyers, and doctors.
A doctor can heal your disease. A writer can take you to a far away place on a journey of your imagination for hours on end and distract you from pain and disease both emotional and physical.
But we aren’t given the credit we deserve. There are places where writers are barely given credit at all; movies, video games. Things that hinge on having a good story. Having a good story to hook your viewers and players into your game is just as important if not more important than having a good visual look and good game play mechanics. But who gets the credit if things go right for a movie? The director and the actors. Who gets credit when things go badly for a movie? The director and the actors. Who gets credit for a game outside of the studio? The guy in charge of the studio or the game director.
Writers aren’t really on the sets during the filming of movies. If a book writer has their property being turned into a film or television show. They don’t get to adapt it themselves. They don’t have a say in what gets changed. They’ve basically sold the rights of their own intellectual property away and have no control on how it is presented to the public. When a screen writer writes a scene that is important to the plot of the movie and the director or the editor decide to cut it for whatever reason, the screen writer doesn’t get the chance to protest that the story will no longer make sense. There are writers who get no credit for working on the script at all. They are called script fixers and it is their job to take a script and make it better.
And you would think that in fandom circles where it thrives on the exchange of free ideas it would be different. At one time, it was considered taboo to make money off of anyone else’s intellectual property. But changing times and trends and a more Japanese view of copyright began to infiltrate fandom as fandom has become more accepted and less secretive. Huge companies are turning blind eyes to copyright infringement as it brings more attention to their brand that they don’t have to pay for. There isn’t as much fear of being sued. It is almost considered normal now in fandom for artists to take fan art commissions to earn a little extra money to get through college.
But fan fiction commissions? Blasphemy. You “don’t do it.” You don’t talk about doing it. Fan creators still get greatly uncomfortable with the idea that someone could pay another person to write them something. Despite the fact it takes time and effort and talent to write as much as it takes time, effort and talent to draw. I am not saying that fan fiction writers should be paid for their work. That’s a different kettle of fish. However, like a fan artist who takes commissions, there is a double standard if a fan fiction writer can’t do the same. Many fan fiction writers wouldn’t dream of trying to make money off writing fan fiction, just as many fan artists wouldn’t dream of making money off their fandom art. However, it is an acceptable practice for artists to do so and unacceptable concept for fan fiction writers to even think about it. But, there is also now a dialogue about it in fandom circles and eventually capitalism will determine if it happens or not.
Writing is an important skill and a learned skill. The ability to tell a story in a cohesive, concise and coherent way is important in all types of work. It is too bad that our society doesn’t see it that way.