Friday, September 2, 2011

There's The Writer, The Photographer And Then... There's The Reporter

Someone asked me recently what it's like to be a Writer. I guess I should address that.

One of the first things I'd like to say up front is that it's probably not what you think it is. Maybe you envision it's glamourous, full of events, excitement, scandals, quirky colleagues... the list goes on.

But well, hate to burst your bubble, but it's not any of the above. Mmm. Except for the quirky colleagues bit.

Most of the time while you're busy attending important corporate strategic planning meetings or out dealing with potential clients trying to close a sales deal, your poor friend the Writer is stuck in the office, staring at the computer screen with a web browser window open and a tab each for the dictionary, thesaurus and Google.

Even the Designer is much better off than the Writer. Because at least the Designer (regardless of the kind of designs he/she does) gets to see colour and graphics and - for the luckier ones - moving objects. But the Writer? All the Writer is afforded is bunches of words words words and more words.

Picture the Writer's brain as a big cloud, with all these words stuck haphazardly all over it. Words that the Writer does not even remember learning. Words that the Writer uses so often that he/she finds it so dull and commonplace and cringes at the thought of using... yet again. And of course, the words of every other topic EXCEPT the one that the Writer was supposed to be writing on.

When working on an article, sometimes the words come to the Writer in neat little packages, all nicely strung together in logical sentences and paragraphs. At other times, the words are all jumbled up - like a ball of yarn that has precariously fallen from a great height and has ended up all knotty (pun not intended). And at the least expected moment, occasionally no words come to mind at all.

Oh, but don't get me wrong, a Writer's job is not boring. Usually, Writers are the victims of some higher authority's Random Syndrome, whereby any and every topic under the sun is thrown at them, with the expectation that within the day - or on a pressing day, within a couple of hours - a brilliant piece will emerge from under their fingers. There has never been a greater pretender on planet Earth as the Writer. Yes sir. Not even the Actor comes close.

Because for the Actor, at least everyone else is aware that he/she is acting, and therefore they accept the actions of the Actor with the full knowledge that it is fully make-believe. But the Writer... you should view them as pretty skilled illusionists. Because nobody knows how they do it, yet they manage to sound extremely intelligent in topics they previously knew nothing of prior to that new assignment from the Editor. And the best part is, sometimes no one is even aware of that!

Oh but before you begin to recklessly abandon your dreams of being a Writer, let me assure you that it is interesting to be a Writer. If you are in good favour with the Editor, perhaps you'll get sent out to go interview someone or attend an event. That's good, isn't it? Unfortunately, you'll have less time to get things put down for your list of articles that are due the very next day.

But there are the perks, of course. You get freebies at events. And on many a day this also tends to include free meals.

Well, if you don't want to be a Writer and still want to enjoy the perky points associated with it (namely the social parts), you can opt to be a Photographer instead and seek employment at a news agency or magazine.

You will get to attend the same snazzy (and at times cheesy or even sleepy) events as the Writer but you get to do the more glamourous bits of parading an extremely attractive state-of-the-art (assuming your company is rich and huge) gadget. Snap, snap, snap... and your job is done. Meanwhile, your poor Writer colleague is running up and down trying to interview a dozen or so people to make sure all his or her questions (which are required for the construction of the article) are answered before the important people start to disappear.

Well, if you like looking cool and using the flash to distract and annoy everyone PLUS you want to get busy going around asking VIPs nosy questions, you can opt to be the Reporter. More specifically, you can become the Online Reporter.

Compared to the usual printed press outfits, most online media organisations are smaller and younger than their printed media counterparts and often (although I can't say for sure it's always the case) have smaller teams i.e. less human resources.

So, you, the enthusiastic Online Reporter get to do a two-in-one role: be BOTH the Writer asking all the irritating questions at the press conference AND the Photographer waving your smaller-but-just-as-powerful camera around and shooting everyone in sight.

Well, there you have it. What a Writer's life is like. Well, of course there are variations, such as Writers who are cooped up in the office more than they are allowed to go out, for instance, those who write research related articles or certain kinds of Copywriters... but in general, the porfolio pretty much looks something like what I've described (but feel free to dispute if you have opinions to the contrary).

On the whole, if you ask me, I'd say it's only glamourous to be a Writer/Journalist when you're on the outside looking in. Generally when it's you that is the Writer and you're in the thick of things, the only thing that will keep you plodding onward along the same path will be either the remuneration (cash or kind, whichever suits your fancy) and pure, unadulterated passion.

I hope I have enough of the latter because I don't have much of the former.

And we shall not go into what it's like to be an Author yet. I've not reached that stage. But from what I hear, similar to other forms of the arts (like dance, music or visual arts), you tend to become richer after you've died and passed on, but live poor in the meantime.

But so as not to end this post on a grim note, I'd say there's plenty of reasons to celebrate your career if you're a Writer. For one, you get to meet all kinds of interesting people. And you get to pretend that you know a lot of things very well (although you probably just happened to utter the right terminology often enough that people assumed you do).

Here's to (the illusive) glitz, glamour and the ever expanding vocabulary. (I sort of wish we could earn money just by entering spelling bees or writing perfect grammar. Oh well.)


hoyden said...

owh the freebies! But these days people hardly appreciate writers that much. :(
hoping for less corporate propaganda and more free-styling. :D

Susanna said...

Hehe yeah... but not all freebies are useful also hehe :P Ooh and free styling sounds good :)