Writing vs Plumbing


“You’d pay a plumber,” writers say. I don’t know why it’s always plumbers. Possibly years spent fidgeting with word arrangements makes one envy the plain usefulness of plumbing. Anyway the point belongs to a perennial theme, that writers are exploited.

But you might not pay plumbers, actually. If, say, there was a training college nearby which needed real jobs for trainees to practise on. Or, say, because one of your friends was an amateur plumber and eager to help out. Or, furthermore, if some plumber new in town offered to work for free in order to build a reputation. If there were surplus plumbers, in other words, you might well save money by taking a chance on them, and feel proud of it, knowing they were free for a reason. There aren’t surplus plumbers. That’s why you pay.

Plumbing is also not very subjective. Most toilets are either unblocked or they aren’t. Central heating either works or doesn’t. This is very unlike writing, where no literate sentence can be certified good or bad. Even so, subjectivity isn’t the problem when it comes to deciding which writers to pay. (When one of them manages to be read and enjoyed by a lot of people, well then, there you go.) Rather, it is a problem because it makes writing an endless adventure, something that people want to do for itself. Even people who enjoy plumbing don’t do it needlessly. They wait for a problem to solve.

Writing solves no problem except the itch to do it. That is its problem. Writing happens because we all have thoughts and feelings and want to say what they are. Some of us even feel like we can say, if we just write a little more, and a little better, and get stuck, forever tantalised. Occasionally the world will want the writing afterwards, and pay for it. Sometimes the world will even ask for more, which is when you get to feel proud in your overalls. There will always be a surplus of writers though. A surplus is one.