Are Writers Unimportant?

August 20th, 2008 by Bob Bly

If writers are not unimportant, they are certainly LESS important than they used to be, argues author Michael Malice in an interview with the New York Post (8/20/08, p. 57).

“Being a writer is less of an accomplishment today than it used to be,” says Malice.

He mostly blames the Internet, noting that “there is so much more media that it’s easier to become a writer.”

Malice also warns writers that there are more writers competing with one another for projects today.

“There is this tenacity to try to do everything right,” says Malice, “because you know there are so many people waiting to replace you if you mess up.”

Is it true? Are writers less important than they used to be? Will the writing profession continue to diminish in status?

And lastly, is the floodtide of new writers — professional and amateur — making it tougher to earn a good living as a writer?

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8 responses about “Are Writers Unimportant?”

  1. Ryan said:

    I’m not sure that writers are less important than they used to be. But what I am sure of is that it is easier than ever to be published than it ever was. What is the same as before, and it will probably never change, is the cream of the crop will always rise to the top. The process to get there is easier and faster than before.

  2. dianacacy said:

    I don’t think that writers are less important. I just think that people realize that there are writers more nowadays than they used to. And they expect more out of the writer.

    They knew someone wrote the stuff they read, whether it be a book or salescopy, but it seems to me that they thought of it as ‘the company’ writing the material. Now the writer has become a separate person.

    With that, comes along more people who believe they can be a writer and who sell their services as one.

    Where this post rings true with me, is that if you don’t take the time to learn how to write well, it will make it more difficult for you to stay in business and make a living at it. That whole ‘protect your reputation and put out a good product’ thing. Writers who do that will survive, because the customers will know their products are worth reading. Writers who don’t will find their reputation shot and their customers telling others how crappy they are.

  3. jgraziani said:

    As a professional writer I can tell you, yes it’s harder for freelancers to make a living at writing, but no, writers are not less important. Here’s why: having a good idea or being able to articulate a thought is not the same as putting it down on paper (or in a blog). It’s more difficult to express yourself well in writing because of the lack of body language, facial expression, etc., but also because too many blog and web writers (not all)completely ignore the rules of written language when they write.

    I can hear it now: “We’re bloggers! We’re free from the tyrannical rules of institutional language. Self expression is all powerful!”

    Well, good for you. But expressing yourself in a way that others can understand and appreciate is a lot easier to accomplish when you have a well stocked tool chest and you know how to use the tools. Punctuation, grammar and various parts of speech are important tools to a good writer, and knowing how to use them makes the writer more valuable to the reader as well as the boss.

    Why? Because a blog or website or book that is so poorly written that it’s hard to understand the point will not receive the traffic or readers or positive publicity necessary to become successful.

    Eventually, the flood of new writers will subside, the wheat will separate from the chaff, and the best writers will be in high demand again.

  4. Christina said:

    I completely agree with jgraziani’s comments. What I want to add is:

    1) I like that some people are finding out that they really can write well, or at least well enough. That frees me from writing some minor BS stuff like emails. Also, using some of my coworkers as an example, I enjoy reading blogs because I appreciate that they are well written and thus, have developed interests in topics I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    2) I don’t think writers are becoming less important. I base my analysis on the countless misspellings, excessive commas, and incorrect word usage such as “there” in place of “their.”

    I like that you asked this question. Now I have an articulated verbal response to anyone crazy enough to question a writer’s value!

  5. Tom B said:

    Did radio diminsh vaudeville performers? Did cable cheapen the theater arts? So what – the internet allows any bonehead to write. I don’t think there is less of a demand for trained commercial truck drivers given that almost can get a drivers license. . .

    If you can write and write well – there is nothing to be worried about.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Tom B: Radio is thriving today. Vaudeville is dead. Cable makes billions. It is tougher than ever to make money in theater. So the answer to your question, which you meant as rhetorical, is actually yes, they did.

  7. Fiona Fell - The Profit Maximising Web Geek said:

    Writers, as commanders of the English (or other) language are just as important as ever.

    I belive with the abundance of new materials published online that many writers are needed to create this valuable content.

    And as such many editors or proofing staff are needed to keep our commas and apostrophes in check. (Not to mention our spelling skills)

  8. Cheryl Goldberg said:

    I’ve been a professional writer and have specialized in writing white papers, case studies and other marketing collateral for technology companies for more than 20 years.

    During that time, it has gotten more difficult to land new clients. Often my competition is not other professional writers. It comes from companies that want to save money by writing these materials in house.

    Still plenty of companies are willing to pay well for professional writing — if the quality is very high.

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