I’m not sure why I started thinking about today’s topic, but it came to me a few days ago. I was pondering the question of a living made with one’s body versus one’s mind, and the values that Western society place upon those differing lifestyles, especially as it relates to writing and creative arts in general. This is relevant to me because I grew up in a blue-collar, rural town, where one was expected to eventually make a living with one’s body. The concept of making a living with one’s mind was foreign, even to me – until I started to realize I really could do it, but that’s a story for another time. The one hope of getting out of the grind-house of poultry and manufacturing plants was sports. I guess it only makes sense; grow up with the concept of your body as a meal ticket and sports just becomes a natural extension of the mindset.
I loved playing sports, too, don’t get me wrong. I would have given anything for a career in Major League Baseball, but by the time I was 12 I was figuring out that I was different. Where the other kids hoped for athletic scholarships, I hoped for science or art scholarships. As time went on I became more and more convinced that writing would be the way for me, and so here I am, after a long, arduous path.
I saw an angry post on reddit last night about how, roughly paraphrased, writing, no matter the caliber, should never be a paid profession: people should do jobs that “matter” and write on the side. His position was basically that writing is not worth much, and that everyone should do it – it’s innate. I take some exception with that position, as yesterday’s post shows that writing is hardly innate to the human condition, but that’s neither here nor there, and I could ramble on for pages about how his position is incorrect. What intrigues me the most is his position on whether quality writers have a right to make a living off of their writing (he does agree they should get paid at least).
It’s probably not much of a surprise that I disagree, for the most part. I’ve gone on at length about how it seems that writers and other artists are the gatekeepers for a given society’s dreams – that is what is innate to humanity, I think, not the ability to string words together on a page. But the question of whether a “needed” physical job is more valuable than writing, there’s where I’m not quite sure. I have no question that a farmer is more valuable than a writer, inasmuch as we can define the person by their job, but is a physical job ultimately worth more than one practiced in the mind?
Take the architect versus the actual construction worker. Who is more valuable there? Sort of a chicken-and-egg question. I suppose that’s the conclusion I have to draw about “mind” jobs versus “physical” jobs. The most interesting part of all this is how Western Society values these jobs. Common sense tells us that the blue-collar jobs are valued more – at least, that’s what it’s like coming from my paradigm, even as a white-collar worker, but words are one thing and the actual money another thing entirely. You see who gets paid more and gets better working conditions, although artists are sort of the middle ground between the two worlds.
In the end, the bottom line, for me, is that good writers do offer a valuable service to society. Obviously it’s not a necessary job, but for how many other jobs could you say the same thing? Quite a few, I’d say. I mean, I won’t delude myself; I don’t expect to make a full-time living with my fiction writing. I’d be thrilled, but I’m certainly not expecting it. However, as a technical writer, I have absolutely no doubt that my skills add value to the jobs performed within the company and that I’ve helped to make companies stronger in my own way. Some might call it selling out, but I see it as using my talent wisely, and in the end, all we can really use is our gifts – whether they’re physical or in the mind.
Today’s featured blog is the Memory Writers Network, a blog dedicated to providing a writing resource specifically for those who write memoir and biographical stories. My friend Rob is squarely in this category, and I think he should at the very least check this one out! Hint hint!