Making a living as a writer

I want to take a minute and dispel some myths about writing. Particularly about the pay of a writer. 

There’s this pervading misconception that writers make decent amounts of money. That if their book is selling, then they’re rolling in dough. With the exception of JK Rowling’s miraculous rags to riches story, it just simply isn’t the case. 

Writers- or at least indie book authors- make a fraction of minimum wage. The creation, writing, editing, and marketing of a book  cannot be translated into a per- hour salary. At best you can get paid per sale of the book- which after distributor fees, printing fees, and retail discounts, would give the author a mere .55 per copy. Possibly less. 

Writing a book is not a get rich quick scenario. 

When my first book (Angel’s Prophecy) came out, my boss at my day job asked in all seriousness, “so when will you be a millionaire?”

Stammering, I had to explain that if I did become a millionaire, it probably wouldn’t have anything to do with my writing career. To which, my corporate boss said “Ah. Then writing is just a hobby.” 

That conversation always stuck with me for several reasons. One, the gall that man had to automatically assume that if something one is passionate about didn’t generate a fortune, then it’s a mere hobby and all of that work was easily discounted as a way to pass the time between shifts. Two, needing to explain that just because I wrote a book didn’t mean I was debuting on the New York Times Best Seller List. 

I’ve had some time to think about this conversation, to fully come to terms with the real world limitations my passion has. Sure, writing isn’t going to get me rich. It’s not going to pay any bills or keep food in my stomach. I’d be lucky to see any sort of profit when all is said and done. But for me, writing is in my blood. I have to write, to translate these images in my head onto paper. I have to tell these stories that live inside of me. If there’s a chance at making a living at it, then all the better. If not, well? I’ve got my imagination to tide me over. 

Decisioning, Wordsmithing, and Other Strange Practices in Corporate Communications

Friends, I have made my first official foray into corporate communications and I have incredibly strong opinions about it.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let me say that from the (very) little that I’ve done with communications in a corporate setting, I love it. I love being able to utilize my writing skills in a meaningful way in my day job. I love being seen as a competent communicator. I especially love that even though it is a small fraction of my job description, I am getting paid what most of us Indie Fiction writers can only dream of for stringing a few sentences together. Ah, the perks of a Fortune 500 company paycheck.

That being said, Corporate America, what is up with this lexicon you’ve decided to saddle yourself with? I routinely see words like decisioning or wordsmithing or actioning. These impromptu verbs coupled with a few five dollar vocabulary words in the wrong context send my head absolutely spinning.

What’s worse is that these communications that I am contributing to routinely go to the upper echelons of management. This means Sr. Executives, Unit CIO’s, Boards of Directors, and others are enabling and encouraging this sort of communication.

I blame the “high-level overview” requirement for this sort of egging on. Essentially, this means that experts in a particular process or function are asked to describe what they do, but to ignore the details and give a generalized description, typically within a certain amount of words. It’s like asking Neil Degrasse Tyson to sum-up the workings of the universe in two sentences.

While I am sure that the great Neil Degrasse Tyson could accomplish this with finesse and grace, your typical corporate employee will struggle with this task. I think this is where the odd vocabulary comes into play. Words with a tenuous grasp on the concepts at hand infiltrate presentations and e-mails that are passed around to everyone in the company. Because of the high visibility, it stands to reason that more will emulate the verbiage and add in a few more five dollar vocabulary words that sound cool, end them with ing and call them verbs. Viola! We have words like Synergy and Actioning.

The same things happen with the youths of the world. Every generation has their own vocabulary and buzzwords. It was just shocking to me to understand that companies are the same way, except they try to dress up their slang in a suit and tie.

As an Indie Fiction writer, I am at once impressed and appalled by this corporate phenomenon. Impressed by the ingenuity it takes to make up verbs and also the single-minded determination to use these fabrications to “effectively” communicate with superiors. Appalled by the continuous perpetuation of words that make no sense by Sr. Executives and Boards of Directors.

I feel that with my entrance into the communications field that I need to address the pervasiveness of “Corporate Speak”. If we are to actually get our points across, we can do it in plain language instead of making stuff up to sound smarter than we are.

This, I think, is going to be my biggest problem to tackle should I continue this adventure in corporate communications. Well, and getting people to understand that while “wordsmith” is a cool title, I’d really prefer to simply be called what I am; a “writer”.