Several weeks ago the hashtag #tenthingsnottosaytoawriter began trending on Twitter, and is still going strong today.
This hashtag, started by an author who wanted to vent after hearing one too many comments from unthinking acquiantances, has grown to encompass all writers, "from celebrity authors to ghosting freelancers and everyone in between" (Sarah McCoy, August 25th), who have taken the opportunity to commiserate and comfort each other in the face of such ignorance from the world at large.
Aside from the numerous authors, freelancers and yes, hobbyists who use Twitter and therefore have had a chance to weigh in with their own opinions on the subject, the hashtag has caught the attention of several mainstream publications, including the Huffington Post and New Republic, all of whom have written articles with their own spin on the hashtag phenomenon.
While these articles and Tweets are mainly funny, they do bring up some interesting points: why is writing so undervalued? Nobody would ever dream of dismissing a doctor or a lawyer as 'just a doctor', but for some reason, writers and authors aren't worthy of courtesy.
I believe there are many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is exposure. A common theme among people who have only disparaging comments for writers is that they are lazy, don't do any work and say they are writers purely in order to get out of doing a real job, and this might be because writers aren't a common sight for most people.
Writing is generally a solitary process - writers spend their time in front of a stack of books (for research), a stack of notebooks (for notetaking or writing), or a computer (for all of the above), and while they may be in a library or a coffee shop rather than their own house, they are still wrapped up in their own small world where nobody else may walk unless invited.
Because of this, people may not realise what exactly writing is. By this, I don't mean they don't understand how hard the work is (that is a topic for a different post), but that because, to paraphrase Locke, they don't see the writing process and how it is involved in day to day entertainment, and so they undervalue it.
Think about how much of our lives revolve around writing. Writing is involved in books, TV programmes, movies, comics, video games, role-playing games, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, adverts, and so much more. Yet, who gets credit for a movie? The actors and the director. Sometimes the writers are mentioned, but this is a rarity. The writing effort which is involved in making the movie what it is is very often completely forgotten.
This means that people are very often not consciously aware of the impact which writing has on their lives - they don't watch a TV programme and gush about how well written the dialogue was - they talk about the costumes or the way a parrticular scene is shot. Writing is very often hidden away, almost as though it is shameful to let people see it.
This lack of knowledge about the part that writing plays in bringing people the entertainment they consume on a day to day basis is part of what leads people to assume that what writers do is not important or noteworthy, and so why we are told we should get a real job.