The Undeserved “Glamour” Of Being A Writer
I’ve been writing since I can first remember. In high school, before the internet was super huge, I would fill up notebooks end to end with my stories. When I got a bit older and was allowed online, I made my first fanfiction.net account. I remember being considered a nerd, dork, geek, loser, and whatever else because I enjoyed reading and writing. I would get bullied because instead of socializing or hanging around and goofing off like the others in my class I had my nose buried in a book or notebook. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a writer. I was determined by the age of eleven to write a novel, no matter how hard it was. This wasn’t something that anyone around me ever thought was ‘cool’ or endearing. I certainly wasn’t making friends that way either.
As I got older, I found my niche online in the world of fan fiction. I never really considered that I was “good enough” to be a real writer so I just went into that because it was fun. In just about any fandom I wrote for I would find a decent-sized following. The problem with fan fiction is that it can be very fickle. For one, if you write concepts or relationships that people don’t like (or are unpopular) you’re going to get a lot of hate. Not that I let that stop me, because I just learned to have a thick skin, but the hate did come. A lot of it. When that wasn’t happening, shows run out. They get bad or they go off the air. Your reading audience basically vanishes when that happens. Though a few people did follow me from place to place it wasn’t the same as the numbers I had when the shows were still hot and trendy.
It was only just recently that the occupation or hobby of being a writer has become a cool thing that isn’t for losers. At least, that had been my experience. With this has come the problem of people who want to call themselves writers without putting any time or work into it. They are people who churn out absolute crap and call it a book but because they have a social media following already (for God only knows what, and it’s not usually writing) they are an instant overnight success. If you go on Wattpad and look at a good chunk of the books that have millions of reads, so many of them are not well written. Yet, these people are getting publishing contracts and movie deals based, not on the skill or talent of their written word but on the fact that they’ve garnered a social media following.
This is something that ticks me off to no end. Writing has become a popularity contest. Where it was once something that was frowned upon or even made fun of, now it’s so cool to be a writer. Just recently (a few years back) I met a girl that I’m just going to call Jay. She and I got along for a while, and when we first met I thought her writing was really good. Over time, I noticed that all of her short stories were basically the same. If you read them, she would just go down a checklist of predictable cliches in romance and erotica and repeat them (in a different order) but nothing really changed. With her longer stories, the ones that had chapters in them, she couldn’t hold it together to write anything resembling a plot. Her novels were overrun with purple prose. It was like she had swallowed a thesaurus then vomited back up onto the page and labeled it a story. She was the type of person who could write a thousand words and ultimately say nothing and move the plot nowhere. Yet, somehow, she was very very popular in her area because before she started writing she already had a following on social media.
When I first met her, she claimed that she could never take money for writing her stories. In fact, she had to write to live, because if she didn’t write she would die. Her very behavior on this was contradictory. For instance, mostly she would post about how hard it was to write than actually sit down and write. Her stories would take forever to come out, I mean an irrationally long time for someone who was unemployed and also claimed to be a “true writer”. She went around boasting and bragging that money meant nothing to her because her soul was the soul of some tortured artist and she had to write she wasn’t like ‘other people’. You know the type, the kind of girl who had to make sure everyone knew she was writing and working on something and saw her writing so they could always pat her on the back about how hard she was working. The problem was that she didn’t actually write.
It wasn’t long before she was taking money for being a writer, despite openly bragging about how she would and could never do that because she didn’t deserve it. Suddenly her mentality had become “give me money to write or you aren’t getting the rest of my stories”. As she already had a following, people threw money at her without question. Yet, the quality of her writing had never changed and even the people who read her work complained about how she wasn’t really that good, certainly not good enough to pay. She would block anyone who tried to give her advice, even constructive criticism was called hate and she flat out ignored anyone who didn’t praise everything she wrote at all times. To this day she claims to be a ‘professional writer’ but she never writes anything other than fan fiction which she demands people pay her money for. She’s made thousands of dollars off of really bad erotic fan fiction because I guess people don’t know any better now.
Nothing has made me angrier in the past few years than people getting rich off of fan fiction. It’s not just her, obviously. We have many more famous cases like E.L James and Cassandra Clare, as well as whatever girl made a crap ton of money for her 1 Direction fan fiction straight from Wattpad. In many cases, these stories aren’t being read for the quality they are being read because people in fandoms obsessively consume anything that has to do with their show/movie/celebrity. They don’t really care how well it’s written as long as it’s just written. When something gets popular, no matter if it’s bad or good, people jump onto that bandwagon and cling to deal life, defending utter garbage because they are so obsessed with their fandom passions they can’t see how bad these works really are.
To be clear, I have nothing against fanfiction in general. I’ve written it in the past, I still write it now. I’m also not just “jealous” because this other girl, Jay, got “more attention” than I did. In fact, my fanfiction was overwhelmingly more popular than hers (if you go by the metrics on Wattpad). I know that I’m a better writer, she knows I’m a better writer, and everyone can see how many thousands of reads and votes I get on my fanfiction. This isn’t a question of fanfiction being wrong but a matter of people charging money for it, profiting off of it, and then being able to call themselves ‘writers’ when they actually didn’t do anything. Being a writer now is seen as ‘totes awesome’ because…whatever reason when for a very long period of time it was not a label you wanted because no one took it seriously.
The worst part about all of this is that because fanfiction has become actual published novels, writing is being taken even less seriously these days. When I tell people I’m a writer I get a bunch of eye rolling. When I tell people I write BDSM they immediately want to compare me to that hack E. L James and 50 Shades Of Grey. I may not be the best author in the universe but I can assure anyone reading this I’m miles better than her.
My problem is that these days people want to apply the label to themselves for brownie points. They want and get the title in a completely undeserved fashion for doing little to no work. They are diluting the world of writing for people who actually put effort and thought into their books and characters. They are making it harder for self-published authors to be taken seriously because fanfiction has a bad reputation of being horrible smut (and in a lot of cases it deserves that reputation because a lot of it is just horrible smut). I miss the days when being a writer wasn’t trendy. Where it wasn’t a popularity contest. I miss the days where people who wrote, did it because they had a passion for it no matter how much they were teased and bullied for it. The people who wrote because it was in their mind, body, and soul. It wasn’t for clout, it wasn’t for social media, it wasn’t to be an influencer…it was just who they are.
The more time that passes, the more I realize that because the world has changed so much there’s little to no chance I will ever break through as a writer. I have read some of these super-popular so-called “books” on Wattpad and god, I can barely get through a chapter let alone a whole book. These things are such poorly written garbage and yet they are pimped out as the hottest trends and latest in reading. I couldn’t write that badly if I tried and yet these people are miles ahead of me because they are popular, not because they are good. I’m lucky to get anyone to read anything I wrote, original or not. I guess in a perfect world, we would value quality over quantity when it came to writing but alas, the world isn’t perfect. Of course, I intend to keep writing until the day I die, even if I’m aware I will never realize my dream of commercial success, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sick of the way things are now. Writing shouldn’t be a popularity contest but that’s about all it’s going to be if we don’t change the way things are going now.