Unpretentious Writers

Writing is a difficult thing to accomplish at times. Few have the ability to write, fewer still have the ability to write well. Most have to work very hard at writing, but occasionally, a writer comes along who is naturally gifted.

Every now and then, I have a student in my office who is really impressive with his or her writing skills. The shocking thing about some of these unpretentious souls is that they do not realize how well they write. I have to say to them, “You write very well.”

“Thanks,” is the usual response.

“Did you ever think about writing for a magazine?”

“No, not really.”

“Why not?”

Here is where they pause. Some have never thought of writing for money, some have no idea of where to start, others do not realize there are entities out there willing to pay money for good writing. Sometimes the answer is, “I don’t think it would be worth it.”  This is where I drag them out of my office and into the hallway to the bulletin board outside my door. I point to an article.

“See this? Two hours worth of research, writing, editing, and re-write. Five hundred bucks.” They look at me a little stunned and then they look again at the 800-word piece.

“Five hundred dollars?”

“Yep.”

“You’re kidding. That’s $250 an hour!”

“Yep.”

Sometimes, but rarely, I can be a man of few words. I fully take pleasure in watching their faces when they make the connection between the work and the pay and then have that wonderful, “Ah-ha!” moment. “Which would you rather do? Work some menial job for $12 an hour, or attain some form of professional recognition writing at a rate of $50 to $500 an hour?”

I really enjoy watching young people when they “get it.” All of a sudden, their minds open to an array of endless possibilities. Their eyes become so bright, their smiles so wide. They immediately get the connection between being able to communicate in writing and their chosen professional field-whatever their craft might be.

After the initial shock wears off, they start asking questions about how to begin earning money from working as a wordsmith. I tell them the basics about the writing craft, the nuts and bolts of writing for money, and then I tell them about Writer’s Market. I explain that writersmarket.com is not a free site; then in the same breath, I say it is the best use of $40 for most writers-as well as being tax deductible.

Oh yes, I fall in that category of writers who has to work really hard at it…

-30-

© 2010 J. Clark

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2 Responses to Unpretentious Writers

  1. Hi, Joe! I recently assigned a 16-year-old intern a magazine article for practice. I told her she could write 900 words on anything she wanted, as long as it was designed to teach the reader something. I had never seen her writing, and she told me all she ever did was occasional journal writing. Two hours later, she had a story that had very little wrong with it — and if I had a fashion magazine and some real quotes to back her story up, she could have immediately been published! It’s refreshing to see young talent that doesn’t even know it. Good job on helping kids make the connection!

    • Joe Clark says:

      Tyler, thank you. Yes, sometimes I am also amazed at some of the really good, natural talent out there. My best friend is one of those, but like many of us, too wrapped up in daily life to cultivate his writing talent.

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