Journalists versus Creative Writers

Not, of course, that there is - on the whole - that much difference between us. Most so called 'creative writers' I know have done, still do some journalism- as I do myself. Many novelists began their working lives as journalists. Many journalists become novelists, write stories or poems. But having just spent an interesting, and pleasurable day in the company of a group of full time journalists, I found myself realising that there is a big (and perhaps growing) difference between the ways in which our minds work.
My fellows on what was an informative and busy trip, aimed at allowing us to gather information about a particular event and write about it afterwards, were a mixed group of 7 or 8 more or less full time journalists from the US, London, Ireland and Germany. Several were involved in online magazines (in a couple of cases their own ventures). And at some point in the day it struck me that they have a completely different attitude from those friends and colleagues who are wholly involved in creative writing. It's more than confidence. I think they expect to be treated as valued professionals and guess what? Everyone round about them seems to live up to those expectations. I had to keep mentally pinching myself. I was with a group of writers who were discussing a booming business, and not how awful things were!
It got me thinking about how so often we, at the creative end, devalue ourselves. We constantly 'talk' failure, and don't seem to have the confidence of our own professionalism. Just as an example, last year, when I was commissioned to write about the wonderful Drovers' Inn on Loch Lomondside for a magazine, it never even occurred to me to tell the management what I was doing. Any of these (in some cases much younger) people would have set the whole thing up in advance, been well treated, and paid out not a bean. And why not, if they are going to be using their expertise in the service of one business to promote another? Consultants, even in the strapped for cash arts, get very handsomely rewarded for their services!
I know of course that many forms of writing are undertaken purely for pleasure, or in a spirit of exploration, and those are never going to pay well. But - perhaps because we spend so much of our time on those aspects of our work - we forget that there is a business end of the market. And when we are involved in it, we forget or perhaps are too timid to value ourselves and what we do, so it should come as no surprise when other people take us at our own valuation, and treat us accordingly. Some years ago, I was asked to attend a script meeting about a BBC radio production, in Edinburgh. There was, said the producer, 'no money in the kitty' to pay for travel expenses. So I went at my own expense. Any one of those young journalists would have said 'sorry, but no money, no meeting'. Not only would they have been right, but you can bet that the cash would have miraculously appeared from somewhere. It is high time that we changed our perspectives.

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