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Posts Tagged ‘writer’s pay’

It took me years to say “I’m a writer”. Now that I finally do it, I find it’s more of a liability… especially when you put it down as your occupation on a form. 

And not just because bank managers don’t feel comfortable lending you large quantities of money (unless you’re in the Rich & Famous Writerly Category, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this – or asking your bank manager for money).

No, I’m talking about those medical forms where you have to remember every major operation and minor hiccup since you were a toddler. Which gets harder every year. I used to write ‘Business Communicator’ because that’s what I do. Now I’m too lazy and just put ‘writer’, because that’s also what I do.

Big mistake. Last week I went to a doctor for a particular examination. There I sat, on the examination table, half naked, and he waltzes in and says (as he’s examining me), “So, you’re a writer”.

Not, oh I see you had a caesarian, a knee reconstruction, and…hmmmm, yes, you sold one of your kidneys on e-bay (because the bank manager doesn’t lend money to writers).

No. “So, you’re a writer. What do you write?”

Okay, I admit I squeaked – because writers hate that question anyway, and because every time I say I write Women’s Fiction they think I mean chick-lit or…

“Write for Mills & Boon then?”

“No,” I say. I’ve only got one nerve left today, and you’re getting on it. “They rejected me when I was twenty – because my characters were too cliched.”

He didn’t hear me. His question had merely been an opening so he could regale me with his own literary successes (and I use the term loosely), all while performing a perfunctory examination on me. When I didn’t ask him to recite his apparently very (very) good haiku, the last skerrick of professionalism left the building.

His parting words, as he tossed a sheet of instructions at me, were “you should be able to understand that. I wrote it in monosyllables”.

Then there was the doctor who also wanted to know what I wrote – then spent half the consultation telling me her life story and the other half trying to sell me cosmetic procedures (do you want fries with that?).

When we finally got to the pap smear, she popped her head around my leg and said, “I even went on RSVP – what do you think of that?” There I am with a piece of chilled metal between my legs and the consult reaching triple digits – I’m not thinking, okay?

I guess I’ve been spoilt with the really amazing doctors I’ve had, so the freaky ones just do my head in.

Anyway, I’m changing my ‘occupation’ on forms now. I’m going to put “counsellor”. No, wait… that would be a red rag to a bull!

Maybe I’ll try MYOB. I wonder if they would?

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Apparently there is much debate at the moment about whether or not writers should write for free. Meanjin sums up the debate nicely, so I won’t go into it again.

However…

…you know, for most writers, it doesn’t exactly pay that much when they work for money, so why would they work for free? The average writer’s wage in Australia has been quoted as being approximately $15,000 per annum. (That’s Australian dollars remember.)

If already wealthy writers want to give away their work that’s great. If emerging writers want to try to find some recognition by writing for free, good luck to them. But if somebody else is making a profit from a writer who works for free – no.

S.

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