Undervaluing the Art of Writing

I’ve read a bunch of blogs lately that wonder why we writers are often reluctant to tell other (non-writing) people that we are writers. The answer always seems to come down to this: Other people do not value what we writers do.

Certainly if we are able to say that we have sold a bunch of books, or written for prestigious magazines, people do not react the same way as when we admit that we’ve been querying since the Jurassic era and still haven’t sold anything. They find little or no value in the hours and weeks and years of work and sweat and money we have put into improving our craft and writing book after book without any tangible return on our investment.

There was a time in history when art of all sorts was valued more than it is now. Many artists had patrons who supported them so they could focus on their art. The patrons got the prestige of having beautiful art made just for them, and the artist got to work with relative peace of mind. Paintings, sculptures, and, yes, even books were commissioned and paid for by avid supporters. Books were written and copied by hand, and owning a book was a privilege.

Not so anymore. Ever since Gutenberg, technology has contributed to the devaluation trend. We started being able to print out thousands of these things called books, and suddenly it wasn’t special to have a book—anyone could get one. Books stopped being art and became a commodity—units to be sold. Familiarity bred contempt.

Technology has also contributed to the proliferation of writers. The word processor has made it easy for people to write and revise. And with technology like laptops and tablets and smartphones, people can write anything, from virtually anywhere. Enter the ease of self-publishing these days, and a tsunami of writers has swamped the world. As always with when supply outstrips demand, less intrinsic value is placed on that item.

And because it appears so easy to write, writing doesn’t seem like work to people. It seems like play. Like…dare I say it…a hobby. And unfortunately, until you get an agent, until you get a book contract, most people will not consider what we do “real work”—because we are writing for no money. And in this day and age, that means there is no value to what we do.

But there is value in what we do, tremendous value. Personally, it gives us great joy, in spite of the sweating blood moments. Even more so, when we write something that touches someone, we have accomplished a minor miracle. Contemporary fiction might reach a person who felt that they were all alone and give them hope. Fantasy or science fiction might reach someone who needs an escape—or fire someone’s imagination. Every book that touches a reader takes them to someplace they have never been, into someone else’s life, and leaves the reader seeing their own world in a different way.

We inspire hope, compassion, understanding, courage, and dreams.

If that’s not value, what is?

So go ahead and say it – I AM A WRITER!


  1. Nancy Keim Comley says

    Great post!
    I am a writer!

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