Writers Are The 99%

Writers — and, frankly, other creatives — should realize they’re part of the 99%.

And they should act on that realization.

Why?

Because unless you’re Stephen King, a big-time screenwriter, or Snooki, then the one-percent — corporations in particular — doesn’t give trash-truck full of donkey crap about you.

Writers are not considered part of the larger ecosystem. Creativity and art are afforded little value in today’s corporate culture. It’s a lie, of course — writers are everywhere. Our work is ever-present yet our role remains unconsidered. The written word is a powerful support structure, and it’s everywhere you look. Magazines, billboards, instruction manuals, marketing copy, and, oh, I dunno, the entire Internet. Nearly everything begins with the written word, and yet, despite this significant contribution, writers and other creatives exist as a marginalized group. Further, our support system is eroding.

Bookstores aren’t going away because people aren’t buying books. Bookstores went away because mismanagement by large business entities porked the pooch. Some publishers may go that way, too — and other publishers survive by trying to hammer writers into troubling and unreasonable contracts (which many writers sign because they feel they have no other choice, which is of course where the value of self-publishing makes itself a known quantity).

It’s one thing if you’re a writer inside a company — though even there you won’t find nearly as much value placed on the writer as you could and should — but it’s a whole other bucket of ugliness if you’re out there on your own doing the freelance or indie thing.

Ever try to get a mortgage? Or health care? Or, uhh, you know, a little bit of respect for what you do? Despite our omnipresence and the critical support the words of talented writers provide, we’re often relegated to the same bracket of financial and emotional respect as a Medieval rat-catcher. “Yes,” they say, “we know we need you, but couldn’t you go catch rats in the dark when none of us can see you? Bye!”

The question then becomes, how do you act on it? How do you join the occupy protests?

How do you rebel against marginalization?

First, obviously: join the protests if you’re able.

Second, consider looking at and joining with Occupy Writers: OccupyWriters.com.

Third, and here is the real kicker, the corker, the critical 20: you’re a writer and so the way you occupy is you occupy with words. You write support for the movement. You write your own experiences. You tell stories — true and fictional — about it, because stories have power and stories are subversive and a little bit of subversion is what the world needs right now. Your weapon is the pen and the keyboard, so it’s time to join the war. And this calls to mind two more things:

Number one, and I’m probably not the guy to arrange this, but it’d be great if we had a day — one day soon — to write about being a part of the 99%. Or maybe it’d be a Tumblr. I dunno.

Number two, and this is something that came up online between Monica Valentinelli and Chad Underkoffler (two authors and game designers) and I: it’d be interesting to see an anthology based on the 99% notion — not the movement itself, I don’t think that necessarily needs to be fictionalized — but, rather, fiction about the economic circumstances that lead up to and currently inform this movement. Viet Nam had protest songs. Why not protest stories? As I’ve said before, stories are lies that tell the truth, and that’s no small thing. Can’t there be a way to harness that?

As to what you can do as a writer to not be marginalized? That, I don’t know. What you do has value, so claim value for what you do. Make sure you’re not getting screwed on contracts. Make use of self-publishing — not always, but sometimes, as self-publishing can help you assert greater (though imperfect) independence. Be protected. Don’t get borked by clients who don’t pay. Spread the word to other writers if you’ve found an independent health care provider that doesn’t, at the last moment, slide a shiv between your ribs just as you discover you’ve got a medical condition that mysteriously they now don’t cover. Be a part of a community. Keep your eye on the critical resource that is Writer Beware.

In the end: stay frosty, and help others do the same.