Here’s What People Don’t Get About Writing as a Job
A Twitter thread asking “what does the public misunderstand about your profession?” turns up a lot of writing wisdom
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Louie Mantia has an incredibly cool job: among other things, he designs icons, like emoji and iMessage stickers and the little square images for apps on your phone. But it’s also a job most people haven’t really thought about, and that they must therefore have all kinds of cockamamie ideas about. Which is probably what inspired him to ask on Twitter, “What‘s something that seems obvious within your profession, but the general public seems to misunderstand?”
The tweet has had hundreds of replies, as people in jobs from architect to zoologist rush to set the record straight. There were a few repeated refrains—teachers DO NOT get the summer off, y’all! News reporting is different from opinion columns!—and some inside info that was genuinely new to us. (Did you know anyone can become a real estate agent, but “realtor” is copyrighted and only refers to a member of the National Association of Realtors? We didn’t! Did you know all distilled spirits are gluten-free?) And there was also plenty of wisdom, conventional and otherwise, about writing (books, poetry, and online articles) as a job.
Here are some of our favorite industry secrets resulting from Mantia’s tweet. If you’ve got more, you can share them with @ElectricLit on Twitter—which, per another incredibly common contribution, is run by a seasoned professional and not an intern.
I don’t write the headline. https://t.co/AWIFBvL8jw
That writing IS a profession. https://t.co/dCJUUCs0Nz
Writing is an actual skill that not everyone can do well https://t.co/2GCC3B7s3M
Coming up with the initial idea for a book represents about 0.01% of the time and energy and skill it takes to complete a book https://t.co/ZampZAHi7n
The "middlemen" (editors, designers, artists, publishers) exist to add value to the final book, and even self-published authors need them. https://t.co/JSZkk2ed9F
Freelance writers don't write their own headlines https://t.co/fgQQ4tjp6i
Children's books are a serious category of literature and are not in fact easy to write. https://t.co/griDBD9swd
Suffering - mental or physical illness, poverty, persecution, heartbreak, or loneliness - doesn't make us more prolific creators. It doesn't make our creations better. The myth of the tortured genius and starving artist exist so someone else can market and profit off our work. https://t.co/t442BFWIb2
You're always writing even if you're not in front of a computer. https://t.co/8uOU9hiIjt
you aren't supposed to be able to fully understand poems https://t.co/MSpCXVBQEA
Writing isn't just sitting in an attic, waiting for the muse to strike before typing your magnum opus. It's writing in the stolen moments, then editing, then editing again, then polishing. It's emails and interviews and pitches and despair. The part about alcohol is true, though. https://t.co/IHX2QHNAke
Graphic novels are just big comics and not inherently more literary. https://t.co/cqcPPAiPKq
The author of an article does not usually write the headline of the article https://t.co/1s9oxni4Yc
You actually can't just decide to write a bestseller. https://t.co/Xq5WaQuINR
Like... 80% of the people you read on your favorite websites are probably living paycheck to paycheck. https://t.co/F28mQEifd5
You can't simply go straight back to what you were writing and carry on afresh if you get distracted or called away. https://t.co/bLMjOmzSgD
I. Do. Not. Write. The. Headline. https://t.co/Cr1ebSaRSR