You Wouldn’t Say That to a Doctor

You Wouldn’t Say That to a Doctor

I used to be one of those people who would never consider writing for free. I’ve even been that guy who’s said, “You’d never ask a doctor work for free!”

It’s not the best argument; in fact, it really only holds up in the sentiment of the statement, but it’s anything but a decent analogy. Don’t believe me? When’s the last time you ever heard a doctor say:

I’ve been working on a heart transplant in my garage after work for a year — you should come by and check it out.

But I have heard plenty of professional writers say:

I’ve been working on a novel after work for a year in my spare time…

They are entirely different professions, and to compare them is weak. First: many doctors do [at least] some work for free. Second: Again, they are very different things, without strong parallels. Do you see aspiring doctors waiting for November so they can compete in NaKiTraMo (National Kidney Transplant Month)?

Didn’t think so…

This is Free Writing

I’m not getting paid to write this. Maybe I could, but I’m not a big fan of monetizing things and cranking out content. What you see here, at The Juggling Writer, and what you listen to at Men in Gorilla Suits is content that has never been created just to create content in the pursuit of ad revenue. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s your thing, but I’ve written almost as many free words in recent years as I have words that paid the bills. Why? Because sometimes, I like to write whatever I want to write and put it out there.

Now, I do believe that if a publication is making advertising money that they should pay writers. (This is one of many reasons I’m a technical writer by trade; the times I’ve freelanced have been tough.) I laugh at places telling people that writing 50 blog entries about discount cologne in a week’s time is going to be great exposure for their career. But…I have known people who’ve written for The Huffington Post and continued doing so because the exposure works for them.

No One is Forcing You to Write for Free

I get the argument that those who write for very little or even free ruin it for the rest of those wanting to make a living as writers. But none of us are owed a living as a writer; more than that, no one is forcing you to write for free.

The blog mill asking for 25, 50, or even 100 entries at $1 an entry? Be honest: even if it paid more, it’s still not worth it to write what you don’t want to write, even for money. I know people making a comfortable living writing technical documents, non-fiction, and even novels. At some point in almost every instance (with maybe the exception of the tech writers), they’ve all written for free at some point along the way.

On Spec

I have a novella coming out this month — it was originally written for free in my spare time. The novel I’m currently shopping around was written for free, and I’m working on my next novel with no promise of pay. But…a couple days ago was pay day at my day job writing Help pages and user guides. For me, it’s a fair trade off that allows me to write exactly what I want to write in my spare time — even if I’m doing it for free.

The writers I know making a living writing exactly what they want to write, when faced with writing for little to no pay, took a chance on themselves. No one forced them to write for free — they worked days jobs that were not their dream jobs until free paid off for them. The best part? In the end, they didn’t have 6-figure student loans to pay off like those doctors you’ll never see spending November seeing how many kidneys they can transplant!

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