How we name things

I know a lot of people who are writers and reporters, and recently I’ve been hearing them say things like, “It’s easy churning out copy for this client” or “I can churn this project out in a day, how much should I charge?”

I’m sure I’ve used that phrase myself, especially as regards work that I don’t particularly love doing (“I churned out January’s budget report this morning”). But on hearing it reiterated so many times in the past week or so, I started to think about what the phrase says about the people who are pursuing work as writers, who are trying to master the craft and earn their daily bread by the words they write. Using the phrase “churning out” to stand in for “writing” devalues what they’re doing not just in their own minds but in the minds of people who are listening to them talk. I don’t want to hire someone to churn anything out (except maybe butter). I’m not even sure I want to have a conversation about craft with someone who uses that phrase to symbolize the work they do.

When you pass a negative judgment like this on your own work, you’re asking others to see it in the same light you do. A good exercise is to consider the value that you bring to your trade and not denigrate it in your own mind.

How you do something is as important as what you do. How you think about what you do is critical to your ability to succeed at it.