Friday, 22 June 2012

5 Reasons Why Writing Is Like Masturbation

This isn't a hoighty-toighty art theory blog post about the fundamental narcissism of writing or anything like that. This is a blog post about the writing business, and while I'm no expert on the writing business, I've been single for over three years now and you can fill out the end of this sentence however you wish...

1: If you're doing it for someone else, you'd better either love them very much or be getting paid.
Think about it. If someone asks you to jerk them off, how many circumstances are there where you'd say yes? You might do it if you were drunk, but we'll discount that because decisions made under the influence don't count.

The point, less facetiously, is this: we do favours for people sometimes, if we feel we like them enough, or owe them enough. We also do work for people sometimes, if they're paying us. These are really the only circumstances in which you should do something for someone else (although, you can argue the case as to whether charitable activities fall under 'doing favours for people because we like them' or a separate, third category, though I don't know of any charities whose focus is providing masturbation to people).

2: If you're only doing it for the money, there are better ways to earn money.

One thing the careers of prostitute and professional writer have in common is a distinct lack of job security. There are also very limited benefits. Not to mention you get no respect, will probably be drastically underpaid, and will eventually end up with various forms of carpal tunnel, RSI of the wrists, arthritis of the fingers etc.

One key difference is this: prostitution is a hard career to escape, and many prostitutes are little better off than slaves (sorry to turn serious for a moment). While some writers who are under contract may feel like they've been enslaved, and some publishing companies seem to be trying to treat us all as subhuman, the truth is that if you have the brainpower and determination to make it as a writer, there are any number of jobs with better security, better benefits and more respect that you are equally capable of.

Yes, right now, the job market may suck and it may be hard to get into these careers, but it's not going to be any harder than breaking into professional writing. And if nothing else, you can always switch to prostitution. I don't imagine there's much in the way of entry barriers there at all, and they're always hiring.

(sidebar: I'm not advocating prostitution, and you shouldn't go into it. Just so we're clear.)

3: You are not entitled to any money if you're doing it for yourself.

Or, to put it less bleakly, it should be its own reward. 'Entitlement' is a dangerous word (and I'll do a serious post on the topic soon, because it's becoming a real bugbear for me), but let's leave it at this for now: you're only entitled to be paid for something if other people are getting something out of it that they've asked for. You wouldn't just run up to people in the street, start jerking them off, and then ask for money. If someone walks up to you in the street and offers you money, though...

Which brings me to:

4: If you want people to pay you for doing it for yourself, you'd better be putting on a damn good show.

I'm no expert on pornography (actually true, despite my chronic singleness), but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will pay to watch other people masturbate. ChatRoulette exists for a reason, after all. But they're not going to pay to watch just anybody masturbate.

I can't believe I just wrote that sentence, but the point stands. If you're going to write for yourself - write the kind of things you're passionate about writing - then you're going to have to do the best job of it you can in order to reach the people whose interests are close enough to your own that they'll pay for you to do it.

There's almost no innuendo in that paragraph, so to make up for it, here's a subsidiary point which is so big and complicated (by which, of course, I mean 'hard' ;D) that I've decided to split it off into a separate post all of its own: Writing is like masturbation because the climax is important. People will only pay if they have good reason to think you'll deliver a satisfying climax.

5: If you're not doing it out of passion, you're doing it wrong.

On this one, it has to be said, I'm more of an expert on the writing side than the wanking side. By which I mean, this is my point of view as a consumer rather than a provider ¬_¬

I'm pretty sure I can tell when what I'm reading was written by someone with no passion for it. I can tell, because it's less good. There's less attention to detail. There's less effort, less polish.

I can certainly tell when my passion for a particular writing project drops off, because I start writing less well. Writing takes so much effort and brainpower that the only motivation that will drive you hard enough to do a good job of it is passion, and a genuine level of care for the quality of the result. Even the fear of starvation won't give you that; to escape starvation, all you need to do is work that's good enough, not work that's the best it can be.

I know which I'd like my writing (and my masturbation) to be ;)


This is actually a prequel to a much more serious series of posts I'm planning at the moment, taking a good, hard look at the idea of entitlement as it applies to writing and authorial careers. I hope you'll come back for the serious discussion in a few weeks' time.


  1. Great post, Rik. Well written, very interesting, and sooo sooooooo true!