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Close to home- Can anyone have ‘the write stuff’?

I always enjoy feedback on what I write. Usually it’s pretty positive, but negative is good, too. At least it proves someone is reading. While I (usually) don’t hide in someone’s trash can looking for scandal, I like to think that I occasionally entertain, inform or even move someone. Kind of makes you feel a bit important.

Thank goodness there are folks around who are more than willing to put us lowly journalists in our place.

Wandering the Internet recently, I found a story written by Jonathan Tasini, a British writer who was one of those taking legal action against the Hufffington Post last year after owner Arianna Huffington sold out to AOL for a cool $315 million. The problem? The thousands of bloggers who make the Huffington Post a popular stop on the information highway (brain drain) wanted a few pennies thrown their way.

The nerve! They knew they were working for free.

Tasini calls creative people, especially writers, “a funny breed,” referring to the fact that we often put work out there merely for exposure with the hope of someday actually getting paid for it.

True, no one thinking rationally goes into this profession with the intent of getting rich, but it is a profession – and writers should be treated as professionals by getting paid for their work, right?

According to most of the comments about Tasini’s story, not so much.

One in particular put things into perspective. It asked if a writer could anesthetize someone about to go into surgery, fit a gas boiler safely, prosecute a hospital for malpractice, defuse the anger of a parent suspected of child abuse, spot disease symptoms in an animal or remove a computer virus. Of course, at least for the most part, the answer to these questions is a big no, and is pretty humbling.

The commenter, having made a valid point, could have stopped there. But they went on. “Could an anesthesiologist/ gasfitter/ lawyer/social worker/teacher/vet/IT engineer write a story or an opinion on fracking? Yes! That’s the difference.”

That may be true. But would you want to read it? Have you tried to read some of the incoherent stuff that is out there?

Maybe technology has given us all the potential to be writers or photographers or to pursue other creative outlets. In fact, it’s rare for a smaller publication not to expect its writers to take pictures and do online work as well. Want to write a book? Forget about finding a publisher; just put it online.

When a school system has to cut its budget, what are the first programs to go? Music, art and other “frills.” Understandable in the face of preserving academics, but not without effect.

This stuff may not be necessary in the great scheme of things, but we would definitely be poorer without it.

Could anyone write a song that becomes the soundtrack for someone’s memories? Could anyone write a novel that influences young people? Could anyone paint a picture or take a photograph that ignites a controversy, moves someone emotionally or defines an era?

No. That’s the difference.

 

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