Recently a person approached me to help him with his manuscript. He needed editorial work and wanted to get his book in shape for a publisher. I explained what I do and how I work and how thorough I am, and the success I have had with clients. I love doing this work--love to help other writers, plus it helps me in my own work to figure out what is and isn't working in someone else's work, and why. But when I told him my fees (which are way below the market rate, by the way), he had a fit. "Who the hell do you think you are?" he said. "Both my wife and I are appalled! Your fee is what I make per hour!!" OK, so I was stunned. The message, of course is that what he does is infinitely more important than what I do. Out of curiosity, I asked him what he wanted to pay, and he told me there were many people around who would be willing to read and edit a whole manuscript for...the price of a great dinner in Manhattan. Today, I was reading a piece about a 58-year-old man who had lost his job in the financial world and was stressing about finding another. My heart was shattering for him, right up until he brightly quipped, "But I can use this time to write a novel!" Sigh. Is being a novelist the catch-all job that anyone can do if he or she only had the time? (I once dated a Wall Street guy who insisted he was "going to write that novel" when he had banked enough money and could take a break. Um, he had four million banked. I had a friend who loved the idea of being a writer and told everyone that was her calling, but since she could not sit alone in a room for the hours every day she would need to, the best she did was jot down ideas in a notebook she carried around.) I welcome anyone to the writing party, but am I amiss to want those people to take it seriously? Do people really not recognize how terrifically hard (and terrifically rewarding) a job it is? Do they imagine we sit at our desks daydreaming happily, waiting for inspiration, and then when it comes, the words pour out of us and we are giddy with delight?
Writing is a calling, but it is also a really difficult, exhilarating, grueling, terrifying, wonderful job. I just wish people who treat it that way.
Causes Caroline Leavitt Supports
The Writers' Strike Writers Against the War PETA