No one cares about writers anymore. I mean, not really. Let’s pour a bourbon and wax poetically about the dying breed of scribes.
It’s not like minds aren’t reading articles these days. There’s still a need out there for commentary, even if it’s not that interesting. People will suck in as much Huff Post, Esquire, and Vulture as the next person, but they rarely remember the writer’s name. They know the headline, the first and last sentence, and those pictures in the middle. But the writer is forgotten-which is a good reason no one wants to pay writers these days.
Every writer is underpaid. Fact. I produce 35-40 per month, but get paid the same amount. I could write 45-50 per month and still get paid the same amount. No one wants to read a deep dive piece anymore. The demand for true writing, thought-building and explanation, just isn’t there. It’s something that thousands come to grips with each day.
People always make cool sounds when I tell them I am a film critic. Sportswriter label announcements are met with a cynical eye, because a fellow sports fan will be unsure if you are worth reading or not based on your sports team preference. But whenever an Uber passenger used to ask me what else I did for a living-you can’t make a living on rideshare unless you like killing your car-the film critic answer was always a fun one.
Right off the bat, they can now confirm in their minds that I am a broke bastard more than likely living off his wife who doesn’t have a real job. While there’s more to it than that, that perception matches the world’s demand for writers. But then the conversation switches to favorite movies and such, which turns into a great actors breakdown. The ride ends and they get out of the car, which means the conversation becomes archived in the “who fucking cares” department.
If this sounds like a soap box solo performance, you’re not wrong. It’s not easy coming to terms with the fact that I will never make sustainable money doing what I love to do: writing and radio. The latter involved three self-hosted shows, a few other joint enterprises, and a small batch of cash that doesn’t qualify for much at the end of the day. The kind of cash that gets swallowed up by a bank account in one bite.
The former has involved countless articles for KSDK, right here on the Dose, and many other websites. The sum of cash made for those words would make you laugh. It’s not much. Nobody wants to pay writers anymore. They want top 10 lists on a loop, easy to digest US Weekly sketches, and random other 200-300 worded sprints. Long-form conversations don’t work unless you’re hosting a podcast from a basement or extra bedroom. It’s fun but not profitable.
Which is why I run around delivering food, people, soon-to-be random products, and try to find as much work as I can. It’s a hustle until the end. I’ll be working a bunch of small jobs until the end. There’s always a warehouse gig or grocery store shelf-stocking gig. Something to pay a few bills.
The pandemic will only close the door more succinctly. Hiring freezes abound and 2021 gets murkier by the week. Right when you think the fog has cleared, we are yanked back into a holding pattern. It’s like we are all running to stand still, but when the dust clears, I don’t think writers will make it.
Newspaper and big dollar websites will still pay some. Jobs definitely aren’t being created in the field at the moment, most likely deleted. And that’s a shame, because I am pretty good at writing and get a consistent kick out of it.
Sure, there are trying moments. Dull facades that elicit few words and leave me hating what actually made it on the page. Writers are a tortured bunch. We second guess our shit more than you ever will. What about that sentence? Does it sound good enough to remember? Older minds would just say write and see what happens, but you need a niche or act these days. Nobody wants a stream of consciousness unless it can be monetized. Same story as 5-10 years ago, but worse.
It stinks. We are all put on this Earth to do one thing, maybe two, very well. Something we love to do. A hard task, and please understand writing is difficult. It’s not easy putting into words what the ticker tape of the mind is giving you. It’s scrambled eggs coming and our hands have to get it all on the plate. A tiring act that can get forgotten.
Nothing gets me going like a piece that I felt wasn’t fucked up and average. It can carry you through a rain-drenched evening in your car, delivering food while getting soaked. Taking a picture so the person using their smartphone to acquire food can have quadruple confirmation that their food is waiting for them, and not a bag of shit.
I’m mad about it. That’s all. When you’ve been at something for 8-10 years, and are only making a little more money than you used to, there can be moments where you think about quitting. You can look right or left and see a former writer who just got tired of creating just for the sake of creating. You can write for the love of the game, but a little recognition and money makes you want more. As Don Draper would say, all you want is more happiness when some happiness is found. It’s writing. Homework for life, as Hank Moody would say.
The articles will continue. I can’t stop. Doing so would drive me mad. Twitter only builds you up to break you down. Facebook is nice, but when every article posted gets 5-10 likes and no more, it’s a weak vessel. Entertainment is where I’ve seen the most growth, but it hasn’t brought the money yet. A good comment makes a bad day shine brighter, but those aren’t as frequent.
But one wages on, because one article could change everything. I could be one Lorenzo Lamas mission statement from stardom. A click away from the promised land. That’s every writer’s goal, to find more eyes and get more clicks. If you are writing and don’t want clicks, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Writers are a dying breed, but they could rebound. When the dust settles and the jobs come back, ever so slowly, people will need something to read. A guide with a keyboard and a need to impose his, her, or their will. Tomorrow is just another chance to turn it all around. Perhaps. No guarantees.
Consider this the longest whine in the history of blogs, but at least I ended it on a positive note.
I need more bourbon. Bye.
One thought on “South City Confessions: Are writers becoming a dying breed?”
I’ve been writing on my blog for a few years now and never to be paid. I can’t imagine trying to make a living at it. The young people have lost — or never gained — a capacity for sustained reading, but there are plenty of us older people still around that love to read. There are a lot of writing contests out there with prize money. Enough to pay all of the bills? No idea. You’re a good solid writer from what I’ve read of you. Please don’t give up.