Writers for hire

By Burt Prelutsky

Writers really have it rotten. Not the least of their problems is that they have to put up with constant criticism of their work. And they get this guff not just from critics, who are themselves writers. They catch it from all sides.

It is possible, after all – even likely – that you will go to your grave without ever painting a picture, playing a tuba or choreographing “Afternoon of a Faun.” But because everyone writes something on occasion, everyone considers himself an authority on the written word. As a result, every writer has been told by his butcher, his postman, and his very least favorite relative that they could easily do what he does if only they, too, had taken typing in high school.

But I daresay that in the entire history of the universe nobody has ever strolled up to a sculptor and suggested that any schnook could do what he does but for want of a chisel, a stepladder and a four-ton hunk of marble.

I consider it shameful that writers are held in such low regard. And to alter that situation, I would press for the immediate passage of a law making it a felony for anyone but a professional writer to write. And I mean anything. As things now stand, there is all too much scabbing going on.

Initially, I admit, there would be some inconvenience under my proposed system. But as most people have already fallen into the habit of sending congratulations, apologies and condolences, in the form of Hallmark cards, it shouldn’t constitute too great a hardship to hire out all writing.

I can envision some resistance to my plan, with certain recalcitrants trying to avoid hiring out, say, love letters and ransom notes. But if we start making exceptions for some, it follows that we’ll soon be doing it for all. And then where will we be?

After all, if you’re going to insist on nitpicking, you might as well bring up the poor wretch stranded on a desert island whose only hope is a note in a bottle. To which I can only reply, a scab is a scab. Perhaps he should have planned ahead and, along with the Dramamine, packed a supply of notes-in-bottles before he set sail. At least the miserable cur can take some comfort in the fact that he must first be rescued before justice can be doled out.

I wouldn’t want you to get the idea that even now all writers stand united in support of this measure. There are divisions even within the ranks. Novelists, after all, look down their noses at playwrights, who in turn snub poets, who in turn despise essayists, and so on and so forth. At the very bottom of the pecking order you’ll find TV and movie writers, although it has never made any sense to me that the person who writes lines for actors to speak on a stage is so often lionized, while a writer who composes equally eloquent lines for actors to speak in front of a camera is generally dismissed as an overpaid hack.

All in all, it is a sorry plight, and now that you more fully comprehend the situation, I trust I can count on your unflagging support. As I march forward on this mission, it would stiffen my resolve to know that all you fair-minded people are behind me in this most noble of causes.

So please let me hear from you. Let me know you’re out there. Hire a writer and drop me a line.