Writers and Plumbers

Why the long face?

Opinion is divided as to when writers were first associated with, and compared to, plumbers. 

The Greek philosopher, Ubendese, a contemporary of Archimedes, was an early example of a great thinker who could compose soul-searching poetry before noon and still sort out the house drains by teatime. Indeed, it is thought that he inspired Archimedes to combine contemplation with bathtub product testing, resulting in his eureka moment.

Some plumbers, throughout history, have rejected this ‘slur by association’, implying as it does that they might occasionally write fiction when it comes to providing an invoice. One thing is certain – the close affinity of plumbing and writing has lasted down the ages, resulting in the confusion we see today.

Some writers demand to be treated like plumbers, expecting tea and biscuits to be provided as standard. On the other side of the coin, some plumbers want to be recognised for their creativity and allowed time to dream – sometimes even time-and-a-half to dream.

So let’s clear the airlock once and for all.

Similarities between a writer and a plumber 

  1. They both look for the right angles.
  2. They can both use a pencil.
  3. They’re both in business and entitled to at least the legal minimum wage.
  4. They can both plumb the depths and need to remove blockages.
  5. They can both become involved in kitchen sink dramas.
  6. They both have pipe dreams and both bleed for their work (albeit with a radiator in one case).
  7. They both need to eat.
  8. They both endeavour to go with the flow. 

Differences between a writer and a plumber 

  1. As far as I know, there are no creative plumbing courses.
  2. Plumbers don’t need an agent, a social media presence or a brand.
  3. For a plumber, things going down the drain is a positive.
  4. You wouldn’t ask a plumber to fix a faulty ballcock, on spec, to raise her profile, or to add to his portfolio. And to solder for warm fuzzies.
  5.  Plumbers wear a boiler suit. Some writers wear a pot-boiler suit.
  6. There is a chronic shortage of qualified plumbers, whereas…
  7. It takes between two and five years to become a fully accredited plumber.
  8. One leads the vanguard and the other drives a van.

Remember, next time you have a problem with your float valve, don’t bother ringing for a poet – iambic pentameter isn’t going to help you.


  1. You know I'd never known the difference between them before. I wondered why the plumber point-blank refused to write those blog posts for me. I offered good money - $10 for 100, that's the going rate, right?

    1. In some circles that could be seen as positively generous! I guess writers get the plum(b) jobs after all.

  2. What an interesting comparison, very creative post! (although sometimes #7...I forget that one when I'm writing, lol) Nicely done, Derek!