Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Are the words we write

"work" or are they considered to be something else. Jane Smith has more to say on "copyright and theft" at http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=3636#comment-23543 - well worth reading as are the links that she provides to the COB Nicola Morgan and David Hewson. Off you go.
Right. Most people who breach copyright would not dream of stealing a plant from a garden centre or anything from anywhere else. They are otherwise honest people. When it comes to stealing words though they somehow think of it as "different". Words are not considered to be "work" by many people. It is probably why so few writers actually write for a living. They have "real" jobs instead and "just write on the side", after all writing is not work is it? Writing is a hobby. Nobody actually needs to do it. If you are doing something for the fun of it why should you be paid for it?
Is that how people think? I do not know but I rather suspect it might be. People simply do not see writing as real work. They may not think they could write a book themselves. They may see it as "difficult" but they still do not consider writing to be "work". Why would anyone do it if they did not enjoy it? If you are enjoying something then why should you be paid to do what you enjoy? If you are paid for it why should you be paid very much?
The other problem is that it is easy to make an exact copy of a piece of writing. It is not seen as unique in the way that a painting is considered unique. If you are paid once why should you be paid again? Is that the way people see it?
Writing is work of course. It can be very hard work. It took Cynthia Harnett about two years to research each one of her detailed historical novels for children. Emma Darwin does similar sort of research for her adult books. Other writers research music, lighthouses, nuclear physics, cartography, maritime law and so on. You need to do this or someone somewhere will tell you that you are wrong. They will tell you that you are wrong anyway but it is more likely to happen if you do not do the research first.
It is not just research either. There are characters that try to take over, plots that try to insist on a different direction, agents who point out blunders, publishers who want something you hold dear cut altogether.
Writing is not fun. It is done because it needs to be done. Writing is a life sentence with no time off for good behaviour.
I suspect we do not really value words. Perhaps it is because they are an essential, everyday commodity.

8 comments:

Sheep Rustler said...

Cynthia Harnett was one of my very favorite writers from early on, and I still remember my way around the areas she wrote about in terms of those books. (And as an adult I lived in the vicinity of quite a lot of them, and always related them to her work).

Copyright is a thorny issue, as I know you know. (I started reading up on the previous post about the symbolic language and the Canadians, and found it fascinating, but ran out of time and haven't gone back there or commented on that post). My husband wrote a lengthy bit for Wikipedia on a subject he knew a huge amount about. He was trawling through some Internet sites about the same general subject and found his whole post repeated in something with no acknowledgement that it was taken from Wikipedia. It was very odd watching him read it with a deepening frown as he realised the words were becoming more and more familiar. He showed it to me (I didn't know the story at the time), asked me what I thought, and I skimmed it and said it sounded like something he would have written. OF course he said that he had! But as both his work and the other site were not-for-profit he let it go, and I think was actually quite pleased in an odd way. And he is a man who knows quite a bit about intellectual property.

Rachel Fenton said...

I have had both words and paintings copied - the latter actually distressed me the most as my painting came from direct personal experience and the "thief" was using my image to get attention for herself and her otherwise mediocre paintings. There is as much need to copy words as there is to copy a painting - none at all! And if you really want to write the same sentence as someone else, at least put it into your own words! How can people be so idle? It's really rude - even when it isn't illegal.

catdownunder said...

It's the violation of one's self that is so hard to take!

Amanda Acton said...

In the "in between" time when I wasn't working, but was patiently waiting for the school year to begin someone asked me what I do. I told them I'm writing a book. Their response? "Is that a real job?"

Um... yeah.

And of course, my studying is gearing me up for a career in the world of art. Just as many people don't consider art to be work. It's just a talent. Friends randomly request things, "Why don't you draw a portrait of my pet?" "Design me a tattoo?"

Mention money and the request suddenly disappears.

catdownunder said...

mmm I know what you mean - peculiar isn't it? Mind you I once asked for a quote for a single phrase in Russian - and was told it would be a minimum of $120 - I would have paid $12.

jeanfromcornwall said...

Words are an everyday commodity and writers put them together to create something special.
Raw foodstuffs are an everyday commodity and chefs put them together with their own skills, to create something special.
If we pay chefs, we should also pay writers.

catdownunder said...

Thankyou Jean!

jeanfromcornwall said...

Another thing that occurred to me - once upon a time, bards and minstrels travelled and told the stories that they had learned, or invented and embellished. You couldn't avoid paying them with hospitality - they were right there in your own living space. So, the fact that we have invented new ways of distributing the tales, doesn't mean we are to be let off paying the originator.