No One Wants a Writer

The only reason I’ve been working as a photographer these past two years is that sad fact. Truth is, no one wants a writer. Most, generally speaking, fancy themselves as one. Everyone had to take English Comp in college, and in the age of the Internet, we pretty much compose our lives on social media through written word. Hell, editors and publishing agencies could inevitably become a thing of the past thanks to self-publishing. So when all you have to do is write a coherent enough blurb for this or that, why hire a writer who should be paid? Why pay an editor to check your work when spell-check can be installed practically anywhere? While the same can be said of photography, there is a visual skill involved that at least warrants someone with a measurable ability or experience. But writing… it’s often just “grab a thesaurus and use some fancy quotes.” … Or memes.

If someone were to hold a gun to my head and make me choose the kind of work I want to spend the rest of my life doing, I wouldn’t hesitate to decide on writing. But they’d be better off shooting me anyway because there’s a lot of truth to what I’m saying. No one wants a writer. It’s the art form that people hesitate to call art.

Writers don’t often get called artists. It’s a word reserved for those that can visibly demonstrate their craft. Drawing, painting, photography, acting, directing, cinematography, even music… No one ever pauses to question their merit as “Art,” but place a piece of text before someone and suddenly, the question becomes “What is it?”

I’ve been applying for writing and editing jobs ever since I moved to Austin, but I’ve never even gotten an interview for the most entry level position. I have little “professional” experience as a writer despite a hefty portfolio that comes from over half my lifetime writing, so I can’t get the work. Because no one really wants a writer, and the writers that people do want come less from unique voices and more from the right face or the visual art that accompanies it. Comic artists, vloggers, animators… those are the writers that will still be called artists. But those of us that shy behind text? No. Not as much.

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Confidence

It’s weird having confidence in something while also being entirely insecure in the sharing of what you’re confident in.

Ever since I started writing back in elementary, I’ve always been praised for my ability to form thoughts into stories, to paint pictures with my words, to get across ideas that few could express. I’ve always known that I also had the ability to get better, but for as long as I can remember, I do know that it is the one thing I’ve never truly considered myself to be bad at. When my other abilities failed me or when I floundered to speak my mind out loud, I could always take to a pen and paper and put to words what I couldn’t say.

Yet, despite this, when it comes to sharing what I’ve written, I am much less secure. It seems strange to think that I’m proud of my abilities and of the products of them and yet I’m afraid to share the very thing I am proud of with others.

I’m sure there are a number of factors. For one, the reception to my take on a Persona 4 abridged series was met with rather loud aggression. For another, my writing often comes from a very personal and protected part of myself. Exposing it leaves me vulnerable. But in the end, for me, it always seems to go back to the fears I’ve had for the majority of my life of letting my confidence go to my head.

I was always told to never brag or boast, that pride was a sin. I was told that I was never to think of myself as “better” than someone else. This was never meant to strip me of my self-esteem. It was seen as a precaution of my parents to temper the possibility of an inflated ego from my heightened maturity and intelligence compared to my peers. When they were told I was considered “gifted” at a young age, they feared that I would become the type of child that would put myself above others, so in an attempt to prevent that possibility, I was told these things to try and understand the equivalent value of individuals. However, it had the opposite effect, and I suffer from rather severe low self-esteem, for several years believing that it was because I was of less value than others.

It’s a constant process of actively working against that psychology that makes up the majority of my days. It’s why I blog about things so openly and why I intend to start vlogging about it in the future, too. It’s not because I think what I have to say is any more or less important than what anyone else has to say. I just need to take the time to believe that there is value in my own words and experiences where I used to believe there was none.

But I want to believe that there is value in my writing, as well. I want to stop being afraid of showing the people I love, like Cody, my own stories and creations because I don’t see them as worth anything. I want to stop feeling like I have anything to prove to anyone else when the real obstacle is myself. I want to have confidence not just in my abilities but in the product that I gave a voice to speak for itself. I know it’s not going to happen suddenly without work, but I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Belong, an allegory

When I was little, I often neglected to pick up my toys after playing with them. My mother eventually got so tired of this, she came up with a way to condition me into cleaning up after myself.

So one day, after a long period where I never came back to some of my toys, she picked up each and every one off the floor…and threw them away. When I returned to my room that day to find them missing, I ran downstairs and frantically asked her where she put them. That’s when she told me, “If you don’t put things back where they belong, they disappear.” I thought she was just punishing me at first, so I did what any kid would do. I cried. I cried and begged and apologized for not picking up. I thought I could get them back if I told her I was sorry enough, but she never relented, just repeated, “If you don’t put things back where they belong, they disappear.”

I went to bed that night in tears, and for the next couple of weeks, I picked up everything out of fear of losing the rest of my toys the way I had lost the others. Eventually, though, I forgot to put something away again, and after a few hours, my mother- having witnessed how effective it had been in the past- picked up what I left behind and threw it away. When I realized what had happened, I cried again. I felt like I had failed my toys, betrayed them of their homes by leaving them on the ground. No matter how much apologizing I did, or how sorry I was, nothing brought them back from the aether.

Her intentions were never malicious. She just wanted me to learn the importance of tidiness and responsibility. She had no way of knowing what she said to me then would carry over as I grew up… No way of telling that I’d begin feeling out of place years later as I fell in and out of groups of friends… No way of seeing my future as I passed on opportunities to others that needed them more, deserved them more, worked for them more…belonged there more.

I don’t know if I ever felt like I belonged anywhere. If I did, it was never for long. Everyone else always seemed to be a better fit to the puzzle of a group or place. Someone else would always come along and fill in the place I had found for myself far more smoothly. Even if I was making it up in my head that I didn’t fit in, the part of me that remembered the importance of putting things where they belong convinced me to step back and let others in. I couldn’t bring myself to be selfish enough to take up space when others were trying just as hard as I was not to disappear. I couldn’t betray others the way I had betrayed my toys.

So I would phase in and out of groups and opportunities, passing up nights out and fun projects and even jobs, for the sake of someone else. An extra ticket to that midnight showing? Sam would enjoy that. You think I could play that part? Wouldn’t Maddie be a better fit? You want me to direct this time? Allen’s been looking for a job like this for months.

Over and over again, I’d decline and divert. Eventually, people pick up on that, and they stop asking you, assuming the answer is always no. Sooner or later, you fade away entirely. You disappear. So you search for a place to belong again. And give up that place for others. You decline and you divert. And they stop asking… and you fade away…

Those words echo in my mind like an infinite grainy record: “If you don’t put things back where they belong, they disappear.” No matter how hard I try to put myself somewhere, to try and stop from disappearing, I see so many others around me who don’t deserve that fate either. And I put them away, back on that shelf where they belong… foolishly hoping that maybe someone will pick me up off the ground and put me back, too.