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In Which I Remphasise That Writing is Work

Okay so creative writers are tired of saying it, but it seems we keep needing to.

Writing is work.

Not work as in, ‘it’s a really hard thing to do’ – although it is. No, what we mean is that writing is labour – it is something that requires energy, mental effort, and sustained application.

Labour that should be valued, financially and societally.

I’m very annoyed that the first Google result definition of the word, from Oxford Languages, is ‘work, especially physical work’. That completely echoes the way we in the modern world like to artificially silo occupations and fields and treat them as fundamentally different.

But the reality is that for thousands of years across the globe, to be an artist was not to be a separate, strange, other being from the ‘ordinary’ worker. It was to be very much one of them. You earned a living from it. You laboured for it.

The impact of the Renaissance in Europe – and subsequently the effects of European colonisation - turned the artist from worker, someone who laboured, to someone who ‘created’. They became a mysterious, romantic, almost sacred figure. With the Industrial Revolution and the onset of mass capitalism, they then became seen as an outlying figure, someone on the fringes of legitimacy, respectability and productivity.

Now, I’m not saying that creative work isn’t different from other work. It is. I’m certainly never going to say that the way to really work at writing is to sit at your desk writing from 9-5 every day, or to fill every spare hour you have in a day with writing, head bent, backside firmly stuck to the chair.

That’s Western capitalist nonsense – pushing yourself to produce produce produce, every minute, every hour, to treat time and brain and body as resources to maximise.

That is not how healthy creative work, well, works. You need naps. You need days of thinking or daydreaming. You need procrastination. You need time to recharge the batteries.

Creative work might operate within different paradigms to other kinds of work, but it remains work. You still labour. You still have an outcome as a result of that labour, an outcome that should help you make a living.

So, stop telling me as a creative writer to seek ‘opportunities’ not work.

Stop telling us to be content with ‘exposure’ and not remuneration.

Stop finding ways to imply that we are not legitimate labourers.

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