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five prongs for society

So Clementine Ford can afford to eat. She must be doing something seriously write (intentional pun) because some of us can’t. You know what? It’s not good enough. It’s twenty freaking twelve and it’s just really poo that people aren’t getting paid for following their heart, acting on their bliss and servicing other people – which is what writing does. How did we forget that?

As a fellow freelance writer, I know that Clementine most likely works damn hard at what she does; it’s not a 9.25am to 4.53pm State Government job where you might spend the majority of the day emailing your friends and reading the MasterChef blog. It’s a twenty four hour a day ‘job’. You’re in the shower contemplating how the heck you’re going to pitch that disastrous article you wrote to pretty much ANYONE who will listen. You’re drunk at a party and you sneak into a corner, and while everyone thinks you’re copping a squat, you’re really just making notes on the little notepad function on your smart phone ‘cause you’ve overhead a ludicrous conversation and want to blog about it. You don’t ever just ‘go somewhere for a coffee’. You succumb to ‘café guilt’, and know the only productive way you can be in this space and not at home writing is by, well, writing…and looking like a hipster wanker as you formulate a coffee review from your notes.

So, here’s a five prong approach (haha, I said prong) that I’m suggesting society adopts:

1. Awareness
People need to be made aware that writers (and this extends to all artists) are providing a service. We are providing people with things that reach beyond entertainment. I’ve never met a person that hasn’t been altered someway by something in the creative field (a book, a movie, a greeting card, a teddy bear, a cocktail dress, a logo).
It’s interesting that as writers we’re rarely revered and respected within the community like priests or other religious leaders are. Or politicians even. What do they do again besides provide plenty of Twitterers with material and cause the #qanda hashtag to explode?

2. Funding
I WANT ALL THE FUNDING! As much as this may sound like a sick joke, there NEEDS to be more Government funding for us. And I’m not talking a paltry $5000 grant that we have to devise a nuclear clad grant application that gets passed around to people who refer to blogs as ‘that internet stuff’. Why can’t I just tweet my application in? No, I’m not lazy (okay, well I am) but I also don’t think I should have to compile a bunch of corporate wank to get paid for providing a service. I do enough of that at Centrelink thank you. Now, there’s a complete brainfuck if I’ve ever had one.
Ideally, corporate need to get involved. I learnt recently that a large state resources organisation project funded a small theatre company to do a play that loosely involved their resource. Genius. I’m more than happy to write about my characters using iPhones, Mr Apple Mac or how I like to work out a lot (Fitness First *cough* Fitness First) or that I should have consulted my lawyer before publishing this (hullllooooo Minter Ellison).
Secretly, I’ve fantasised that some incredibly wealthy do-gooder, privately invests in my writing and pays me a yearly salary to just continue writing whatever flows from my fingertips. I personally think that’d be money well spent. They’d be getting more return on investment than what they give to their ice dealers, that’s for shiz.

3. Support
Replace those pitying looks and those ‘oh you’re a writer/blogger *grimace*, what sort of stuff do you write/blog about?’ said through tight cheeks, with ‘Yes, the world needs more writers. They really provide a service to us people ya know? I read The Da Vinci Code once, it really altered my life’. Said no one, ever.

4. Understanding
‘You have no money and you’re a struggling writer? Get a real flipping job and write at night or get up at 4am and write. If you want it bad enough you’ll sacrifice your six hours a night of sleep and eating and your mental health’.
Here’s the thing… ahhh nup, stuff it. Not even gunna…

5. Self belief
I have about three ephemeral moments a week, where I know that I’m doing the right thing for me by following my dream of just writing as much as I can and getting paid for it somehow. As much as I try to modify my course of thinking, I still inherently believe that we are all loosely tied to some sort of cosmic, fatalistic pathway because when I swim against this current, I’m truly, deeply miserable. When I let go and float with this current, I may be clinging until my knuckles pop through my skin for dear life to a fallen tree branch but I’m still flowing with the current.

Outside of those three moments a week, I’m generally thinking this:

  • Why do I have to opt for the ‘cool (pfft), artistic lifestyle’?
  • Why can’t I just get a real job like a normal person?
  • Why do I have to want to be a writer?
  • I will never make it as a writer and now I’m just wasting my time and I’m getting old and soon I’ll be forty, still in debt and alone…
  • Do I only want to be a writer so I can continue my fantasist lifestyle and avoid ‘real life’?
  • I bet my friends laugh at me behind my back because I think I’m a writer.
  • I am going nowhere.
  • My writing is HORRENDOUS, no one will ever read it, let alone like it.
  • I can’t write anything intellectual or profound; it’s all just about boobs and stalking men.
  • No one reads poetry anymore – there’s another thing I waste my time with.

These plaguing thoughts don’t just overlap but occur simultaneously, for the majority of my waking time and a solid chunk of my sleeping time.

Imagine, just for a second, if I had pure, unadulterated self belief? I would probably transform into some kind of super plasma, I’d be that powerful and unlimited. Even better, I would write some good stuff. Even semi decent stuff would be okay. And I would pitch it to people. And I would demand payment for it because I would recognise that it’s not just my time and knowledge that has been infused into that piece but a part of my soul; a part of my 28 years on Earth (and the lifetimes before) and a culmination of wisdom, love and spirit that has been compressed down to a concentration of words that may just change someone’s life. Yeah, I’d say that’s worth a bit of cash.

NB: I didn’t get paid for this post because I consciously chose to pitch it to a platform with limited funds that clearly states they can’t pay for contributions. I’m hella cray like that.

Vanessa Jones is a freelance writer of poetry, fiction, editorial, and copy, and blogs at She works part time at the SA Writers’ Centre as a Project Officer (emerging writers) and is also a yoga instructor.

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6 thoughts on “five prongs for society

  1. Well said. The Arts are utilised everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE) but rarely is the public conscious of the blood, sweat and tears that go into even the smallest creative venture.

  2. Completly agree. I am definatly of the belief that if it isn’t for art then what is the bloody point of it all? Just existing isn’t enough for me and I don’t think it is enough for our society. I am also a firm beliver that art inspires ideas and creativity in more ‘serious’ jobs, where would our technology be without sci-fi for example.

    Just watch the hyperbole with government workers. They are all overworked. I know they are easy targets but as long as they are viewed like that they can be cut by politions who need a short term boost in the polls. A properly functioning burocracy is, like the arts, a cornerstone of a decent society.

  3. I’m so glad someone brought up the hyperbole on the government workers. You see, I am both. By day I am a government worker so that I can you know, live. But I’m also a writer who works bloody hard at a second (mostly unpaid) job.

    Sometimes you have to get up and go to a day job to pay for what you do. You put in your 40 hours per week (often more unpaid) of hard work and tolerate a shitty political climate, and not being able to make the changes you’re passionate about, because it pays the bills and means that you can afford to be creative in your non-work time. Even though many people in the public treat you like dirt.

    You do it because you love your creativity, and to be able to do it, you have to fund your life somehow. You don’t complain, you don’t ask anyone to support you, you just do the best you can with the resources you’ve got.

    Just remember that the next time you’re sneering at “government worker” that many of us are creatives as well, and instead of pissing and moaning that someone needs to give them funding, they get up every day and find a way to fund themselves.

    • Oh I love this Kath. Thank you so much for sharing!
      You also might just be superwoman…? Not sure how can fit this all in and still function!
      Clearly, this is a massive generalisation of Government type workers (which my mother told me off for, being one herself!) so please forgive that as you have proven me incorrect. Maybe it is time I expand my network of public servants.

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