Do authors really have the most desirable job in Britain?

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Brian Clegg

Aug 7, 2014
Swindon, UK

Here's the follow-up to my previous post, looking behind the headlines claiming authors have the most desirable job in Britain to show what the figures really say:
I don't know. I would have pigeon holed 'footballer' and 'pop star' as equivalent to 'Olympic athlete' and 'Hollywood movie star'. The latter two being included in the list of choices. Although I do see that people made a choice out of a limited number of careers rather than been given an open ended question.
I don't know. I would have pigeon holed 'footballer' and 'pop star' as equivalent to 'Olympic athlete' and 'Hollywood movie star'. The latter two being included in the list of choices. Although I do see that people made a choice out of a limited number of careers rather than been given an open ended question.

They definitely aren't equivalent as job aspirations - for example (Premiership) footballers are highly paid, while Olympic athletes aren't. And far more people have aspirations to sing than to be a Hollywood movie star - you can't combine them.
I wanted to be a riding instructor. Or a vet. Or a teacher, or a nurse.... Turns out my life means I do the lot 24/7. I always made up stories, but was terrible at English through Dysbraxia (as we know) AND through negligent teaching. I lost interest. I was a non reader for YEARS until I picked up Garth Nix's Sabriel during a really rough time in my life, and have been unable to stop reading since. I was always meant to write I think, But I never specifically wanted to be a writer until my Adult life (as in over 27.) And I wanted to write stories for my kids and their adventures, not the mammoth job I am forging ahead with now.

I think the draw to writing is to do with having all the options people used to have blocked. Just a theory.
I think that's what people imagine an author does; sits on their bum, living on junk food and caffeine, typing/writing whatever comes into their heads and it gets published right away. To the uninitiated it seems an easy living, but to us in the know, it's so much harder.
Like anything else it is hard work and my favourite maxim about this thing of ours is that we don't write anything. What we do is re-write. Over and over again. But it all starts with the day-dreaming and, for me at least, it has to be a central part of the entire process. The day it just becomes work is the day I give it up. Yep, arse on seat, fingers on keyboard lays at the heart of the actual day to day, nitty gritty, but it's that magic moment when a character does something that you never expected or a plot synopsis appears out of thin air. That's the kicker, the moment when you head the ball over the line or hit the ball for six or what ever other sporting metaphor rocks your boat. And getting paid because that happens, even if it is only peanuts, is something incredible.

I think most people get that, even if it is not on a conscious level. Everybody, at some level, indulges in the 'what if'. I would say that for a lucky few of us, we have the desire to take that one step further.

And that one step does involve blood, sweat, tears and a bucket load of caffeine beverages of your choice. But I can see why a lot of people want to do it. The only question being how much ?
"The only question being how much?" (end quote). The difference between a dreamer of writing, and an actual writer IMHO ;)
I've had people tell me they want to write a book (without having an idea) and people say that they have an idea, but just don't have the time to write a book. I'd bet both would vote for wanting to be a writer, wanting to be a part of the scarf club who meet up at Starbucks on a Tuesday with typewriters in hand. But, it's the same as me thinking that space looks pretty cool so being an astronaut could be fun. The difference is, I don't want to train to be an astronaut, so I obviously don't want it that much.

The same goes for writing. Ideas, we all have ideas. But to write a book, you need to shape those ideas, add in characters who have their own ideas and then give them satisfying endings. Then you have to edit the stupid thing. Again, and again, and again. And then you need to grovel around like Oliver Twist saying "Please, Sir, just read the one chapter!" Suddenly the writer lifestyle doesn't seem so glamorous and those daydreams become nightmares because you know they're just going to lead to repeating the whole process!

I think it's the best job in the world when you have readers, but the worst hobby in the world when you're desperate for them. And the truth of it is, for most writers it will remain a hobby.

Well, uh, that ended on a depressing note. :confused: I bet you can guess where I am in the writing process! :p

Also, thanks for looking at the stats, Brian! Interesting way they decided to word the questions. I'm not sure, but I think on QI author was also said to be the most desired job. I have no idea where those results came from though.
Hit writers block 1408? Nar, I'm not sticking my tongue out, it could be a mirror reflection! I'm sure most people see writing as possible one of the greatest 'jobs', but unless they do the hard-yard, they have no idea that could could be the hardest job in the world, especially if you want to make a living out of it. Musicians have it so much easier but they have no idea..... ;)
Musicians have such a tough time, I have a friend, blues guitarist and singer, very well known on the musician's circuit, played with the Strawbs, the Yardbirds. No such thing as a nest egg, he's in his 60's, constantly on the road and overseas too, making ends meet. As for authors, I'm not a jobbing author yet, to judge. I've produced one unpublished novel for adults, a new one underway, some tiny prizes and bits and pieces published; I'm just a speculative one at this point. What I like about it, apart from the writing, is doing the research.
Currently, this is banshees, red kites and sheep sex...strictly between sheep.
I like to think that the crucial moment is when you make the leap from wanting to be a 'writer' to wanting to be an 'author'. I have swanned around for decades, telling myself that I could be a writer and that if I just had the breaks and so on then it would all be different but, and it took me a fair old amount of time, the penny only dropped when I knocked the booze on the head and I woke up to the fact that there was a lot more to writing than being able to drink most people under the table whilst pontificating about this and that novel. In short, I needed to stop being a ponce and become somebody who knuckled down and just wrote the bloody stuff instead of talking about it.

And I am at peace with the idea of it being a hobby. I don't really do much else apart from work, taxi the kids about along with other,general, family stuff (which I adore doing so please don't think me ungrateful for having that part of my life as blessed as can be) and so sitting down of an evening at the keyboard, or any chance I get to have a morning coffee on my own and make notes, has become for me my favorite past time. Who knows, maybe one day things might take off but even if they don't, I will be more than happy to write what I would like to read and hope that others feel the same.
That last picture in that article, 'The Never Ending Book' ??? Too much truth in that article, maybe there's a tale in that as well (and maybe end a tail?) ;)
Yes, it's the most desirable job anywhere on the planet. Who wouldn't want to sit around in their Wonder Woman pajamas all day long, drinking all the French vanilla coffee they want, while their imagination gets to run wild? The problem is I don't make enough money to survive on writing alone, which isn't desirable at all! :eek:
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