Monday, August 4, 2014

Recently, a bunch of people have been begging professional science fiction and fantasy writers to stop everything they're doing and write a 140 word story about actor Misha Collins for something called Gishwishes.

Did I mention that they want these professional writers to do it for free?

I received several requests from perfect strangers.  Which is interesting, because, yes, I'm a professional writer, but I don't write science fiction or fantasy.  These folks apparently assumed that because I work part-time at a SF/F bookstore and I'm a writer, I must write SF/F.  So my email account and Direct Message inbox were crammed with "please please please, write me a story about Misha!"

1.  I watch Supernatural for the characters, not the actors.  I enjoy Castiel.  I don't know or particularly care about Misha Collins the actor, any more than he does about me.  Why would I want to write about him?

2. Here's what your doctor would say if you asked her to perform surgery for free.
Here's what your dentist would say if you asked him to clean your teeth or fill a cavity for free.
But folks don't hesitate to ask professional writers to use their talents for free.

It takes years, sometimes decades, to learn the craft and art of writing well enough to be paid for it.  There are failures, pitfalls and rejection after rejection along the way.  But a true writer keeps learning, keeps improving, and often, but not always, develops a talent that others see as worthy of a paycheck.

It's not given to us.  We earn it.

And 99% of writers don't earn enough from writing alone to support ourselves.  Most have day jobs, or a partner, spouse, relative or roommate whose contributing income keeps us from being homeless.  So every word we write and every minute we spend writing is precious to us.  Words and time equal money.

Too many people, and this includes amateur writers, don't see writing as work.  Welp,
I had 15 people ask me to write each of them 140 words.  (It was really a lot more than 15, but let's just say 15 for this example.) That's 2100 words.  You know how much I'm typically paid for 2100 words?

$5000.

You want me to do $5000 worth of work.  For free?

Are y'all willing to do $5000 worth of work for me for free?  Just because I ask nicely?

So if you want me to write 140 words about your favorite actor,
In case you're not getting the message,
4.  Stop being sheep and doing what your favorite actor tells you to do.  I have known a lot of actors in my life, many with names you'd recognize, and let me tell you something: When they instruct their fans to do something, they're not doing it because they like youThey don't know you.  It's about them.  It is always about them.  When an actor, or any person you don't personally know, tells you to beg favors of complete strangers, ask yourself, Is this a good thing to do?  Why doesn't he ask me to write a story myself and not bother someone who's not participating in Gishwishes?

Enjoy your fandom.  But think for yourselves, fer crying out loud. 

For more on the topic of asking favors from and having expectations of professional writers, read I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script  and George R.R. Martin Is Not Your Bitch.

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