12 January, 2007

On Hack Writing

Over at Mother Tongue Annoyances, Tim has a nicely-written piece about hack writers.

In part, he has this to say:

This commitment is key for me inasmuch as I have always, for as long as I've been writing professionally (eight years), steadfastly refused to commit a word, either electronically or in print, or to remain silent, unless I believed 100 percent in what I was writing or keeping silent about. Does this make sense?

In other words, "I will not barter my words" means, to me, that I will not prostitute myself to the highest bidder and, say, begin writing marketing copy for the "widget of the week" simply to bring some extra coin into my household.

It's a nice sentiment and one I can see the point of.

But I'll be honest. I've written a lot of things for money, and been happy to do it. Why? Because as much as I like my reputation as a writer, and as much as I love the written word in most of its forms, I also love eating and sleeping indoors. Yes, I've written catalog copy for some of the world's homliest photo albums. Yes, I've written books for games I don't even know how to play. And I'll probably do it again. Hopefully. One of my goals for this year is to get at least two freelance articles published.

And I don't care where. Dog Fancy. HomeLife. Anything. Just something published with my byline. Because I'm a writer. It's the one thing I'm halfway good at, and I figure God wouldn't give me some degree of talent with something if I'm not supposed to use that talent in this lifetime. I'm tired of burying that talent in the backyard.

And yes, I'm writing a book. And no, it's not the great American Novel. I've decided I don't want to do that. I want to write the kind of books that people with busy lives will pick up in the airport or the grocery store or the front rack at Barnes and Noble. I want to write the kind of books that take people's mind off their own crap lives and offer them a bit of fun.

Maybe that's hackery. But maybe, just maybe, it's called "doing what you love" and there's not a problem with that.


At 7:29 PM, January 12, 2007, Anonymous Tim W. said...

It's all good. Do what makes you happy. You know, I was affected by Stephen King's On Writing much more than I originally thought I was.

In that volume King said something to the effect of that, in his view, if you author a piece of writing, submit it, get paid for it, cash the check, and the check doesn't bounce, then you're a success as a writer.

Now Steve obviously goes much further with this concept in his book, and King is undeniably a craftsman with the language (though by his own admission he is not in any literary major league aesthetically or substantially).

Nevertheless, King is a good example of a man who obviously does something he loves to do but at the same time transparently goes after the buck (for heaven's sake, he had to at the beginning of his writing career--he and his family were almost literally starving).

In my opinion, "hack" serves as nothing more than a reminder as to why I write in the first place. It doesn't matter to me why you or anyone else does it. To invoke an old saw of my late father-in-law's: "The end of my nose is the end of my business."


At 6:29 PM, January 13, 2007, Anonymous Sis said...

Eagerly awaiting a great read and will buy a dozen copies at Barnes and Noble when it arrives!

At 3:28 PM, January 15, 2007, Blogger newscoma said...

I love reading your stuff, and will continue.
I hope you get the freelance work you seek.


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