Saturday, April 26, 2014

W = Writing as a Career Is a Commitment


Writing can be a therapeutic outlet. A person can pour his emotions into a journal and come away from the writing as refreshed as someone who’s soaked his troubles away in a hot tub. An angry letter can vent off the strongest feelings of rage, allowing the writer to spout off before ripping it to pieces and writing a calmer, more rational complaint. Penning a letter to a friend, a “thinking of you” note, or a “congratulations!” card helps to keep people connected. Writing a blog allows thoughts to be shared and an opinion to be voiced in a larger forum.

Writing as a hobby is much different than writing as a career. Hobby writing can be sporadic, disjointed, informal. It is done for the writer’s own pleasure or for the pleasure of family and close friends. My dad used to write poems, but he never wanted to make a career out of it. Meaning no disrespect, I can honestly say he would not have been able to. But he enjoyed it and it was a great stress relief for him when he had a lot on his mind.

Writing with the goal of being a published author carries a different weight. There is a responsibility toward a certain standard of quality, and when that standard isn’t met, readers become resentful at having spent their money on a bad product. Writing may be beneficial to you emotionally, but if you want to benefit financially, effort must be made to put out the best book you can. Time must be invested for writing and rewriting. Money must be spent for edits and cover art. Effort must be spent in marketing and promotion.

Commit to excellence and the effort it takes, or enjoy the writing for its own sake and don’t try to make money from it. You can’t do both.

52 comments:

  1. Hi Lynda
    I must admit that I write mainly for my own pleasure. I'm afraid of the pleasure disappearing if I feel under pressure, yet I do realize that sometimes pressure could lift me into producing something more worthwhile.
    As for promoting etc., I always feel that I'd rather stay inside my shell. Why am I not worried about showing my quilts, when I'm terrified of showing my writing?
    Perhaps I'm slowly gaining more self-confidence.

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    1. That's a tough balance, Fanny. The idea is to find something we can do that will make us money, but still be pleasurable enough that it's not drudgery. Not many people can manage it.

      I have friends who sew for a living, and they used to worry about the question of "What if my business wrecks the enjoyment of my hobby?"

      I think writing is such a personal, inner thing that many people don't equate it with a product, even though a book is a product in itself. You've put a bit of yourself into the quilt, yes, but it's a result of your physical skills as much as anything else. Writing comes from your emotions, and when people reject those, we feel they reject us. That isn't true, but it still feels that way at times.

      You just need a combination of good cheerleaders, hand-holders, and kind but honest critics. Go, Fanny, go!

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  2. A good reminder that I need to have dedicated writing time if I am to get anywhere with this writing.

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    1. Making the time is so hard, Rhonda. I have to make time for so many obligatory things that I really have to struggle to make time for the things that fall into the "pleasure only" category. It's worth it, but it's a constant battle.

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  3. And be sure you really want to cross over to the professional side...

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    1. Well said. I'm still perfectly happy working in the office 8 hours a day (it helps that I have a killer view of the water) and writing on the side. My wife and I need the stability of a "non" self-employed income.

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    2. You're right, Alex (and Stephen). The "can't go back" factor is a huge one to deal with.

      And Alex, yes, I totally pictured you saying that in a Darth Vader costume. Is that wrong?

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  4. Well said, and my thoughts on this are similar to Fanny's. I'm well onto the downside of the hill, and have been writing to entertain others for over half a century, going back to grade school. Everyone I handed a copy to enjoyed my fiction, but in 1996, they managed to convince me that I was good enough to go pro. It turns out that I wasn't, but for a decade, while I was clawing for that career change, I couldn't write for fun. I had it in my mind that I was writing for publication, and I could no longer be bothered writing for fun. I finally accepted the fact that I'm not the next Stephen King in about '05, and quit writing altogether. By 2010, I was ready to start hobby-writing again, and again my sorta-good prose is flowing. I self-published, thereby "scratching that itch," have a few sales and a few followers, and plan to do it again... I call it my "glorified hobby." I doubt I'll ever make enough sales to cover my internet expenses, and that's okay.

    A job is a job is a job, and if you are going to use your writing talent to get out of the cubicle, then instead of your 8-hour day spent shuffling paper for the man, you're going to be putting in 16-hour days doing research, writing drafts, tearing them up and writing new drafts, fighting deadlines, fighting publishers who want to pigeonhole your creativity, and on and on and on. What I found is that when you turn something into a job, it becomes work, and it's very difficult to step back and do it for fun again, in my case, difficult to the tune of five lost years. Be careful what you wish for...

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    1. Sixteen hour days--so depressing but so true. :-( And yet, I can't help myself... :-)
      Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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    2. Jack, I'm glad your journey led you back to writing, and hope it continues to get more fun as you go along.

      So many really good authors don't make enough to cover the expenses of edits and cover art, but the freedom of self-publishing makes up for the monetary end of it.

      Yeah...we all want something until we have it.

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  5. I have been writing, of late, like a dabbler. Between the A to Z and my migraines the writing has been on the back burner. I think I need to decide how important it is to me....

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    1. Robin, the A to Z has been whupping my butt from here to there, and I have had no other excuses than the typical busyness of my life. I'd say the migraines are a pretty valid reason to put writing on a back burner for a bit.

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  6. I'm really trying to squeeze it in whenever I can. I've been writing while burning brush, while at the pub, and while in public transit. I'm slowly learning to tune-out the noises.

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    1. For a moment, I thought you said you were writing in a burning bush, and I was inspired. Pub writing, though...I'm willing to bet that just gets more interesting as the night goes on.

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  7. Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

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    1. I think some of the things I've done are things I wouldn't want to be writing about. I'd probably settle for the "write something worth reading" part of it.

      It's a good quote, though.

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  8. I treat my writing like a job to the extent I even get stressed out if I'm five minutes late hitting to my desk, is if I have some boss checking the time clock punches. But it works for me. As long as I treat it like a job and have a specific schedule, I get something done. It's never as much as I'd like, but it's something. I devote so much time per day to critiquing, so much to writing, and then I trade-off between research and revising as needed. It doesn't take long for the day to be gone. Naturally, through this A-Z, I did not schedule extra writing for myself throughout the month of April, but I'll be working doubly hard through May to make up for it. :-)
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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    1. Debi, you sound so organized. I'm a wee bit jealous. Maybe I should have you over to head up Debi's Boot Camp at my house, just until I get it together somehow.

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  9. A the moment I'm enjoying this beautiful romantic relationship I have with writing. Sure we have our ups an downs, but we're working through it. I'm taking it out on dates, long walks on the beach, caressed its tenderness, and I've even proposed. I *think* I'm well on my way to making a big splash with commitment. Wanna be the best woman?

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    1. I will be the best woman and then some! I'll even throw you a shower. I won't throw you IN the shower, because I'm sure (well, pretty sure) you've showered already if you're doing all this wooing. Wooing requires cleanliness.

      Where was I? Oh yes, off to buy myself a queentacular gown that befits my position as best woman.

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  10. What you've written is very true. I think that you have to show up to writing just as you have to show up to 9 to 5 job at an office. However, life has a way of keeping you from doing that sometimes: family, illness, just plain burnout. When those things happen writing has to wait a bit, but, of course, your brain doesn't, and during those times I often find some of the best nuggets for my next story.

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    1. I find myself hard-pressed to schedule my editing time, because I tend to fit it in wherever it fits, whether late at night, early morning, or anywhere in between. It all depends on what's going on in the household. I like the flexibility of working from home, and I can't schedule it as a standard thing like 9 to 5, but I also finally have everyone else here recognizing when I'm genuinely working and can't just keep putting it down at the drop of a hat.

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  11. I've written for free and for money. But writing full-time, for money, requires commitment and a great deal of faith in one's self.

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    1. I would have to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could do it, just to make the leap.

      I think we were commenting on each other's posts at the same time. I finished yours (love the pic of Khan, by the way) and found your comment waiting for me! Obviously, our brain waves are in tune today.

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    2. Yeah, we were!

      Someone has to explain to me why I wake up at four in the morning lately, when "certain people" are posting....

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    3. I've tried to turn down the volume on my posting notifications...sorrrryyyyyy.

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  12. Writing is my passion, and while I don't make much money from it, I will continue to write until I can't anymore. :)

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    1. Making money is great, but loving what you write is important. The true commitment isn't the hours put in; it's the drive to produce the best product you can.

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  13. There is a Novela worthy of effort and revisions in the COMMENTS written by your AtoZ Commenters and your Dear Abbish/Bombeck REPLIES. Reading highlight of my day...really! As to for Pleasure or Pay...I'm pretty sure you have guessed which I am...my pen name is OverDoSue Hackit.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

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    1. HA! Sue, I've been just tickled this month as the commenters comment on other people's comments, and 'round it goes. It's the best kind of interplay, and sometimes I just sit back and laugh as I watch it happen. MUCH, much better than "Nice post! Thanks for sharing!"

      I like your pen name! I think the idea situation would be where one can commit to the excellence without having the "must do this or else" feeling.

      Then again, I think it would be great for my kids to pay me for being a stellar mama, but that's not happening either. Sigh...

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    2. Just back to get read your reply....and to get in the last word...LOL!

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    3. LOL! I believe my comment form clearly states that I'm to have the last word. Also, your head must be lower than mine (which is difficult, because I'm only 5'3").

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  14. Fine I'll get back to the two unfinished books sitting before me.

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    1. yeah I have to write a 1500 word paper for class tomorrow

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  15. I find that the writing is the enjoyable part. The editing is the 'job'.

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    1. Many have echoed your sentiment, Nana. After the first draft, the real work begins!

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  16. I thought I wanted to truly commit, but sadly did not. I changed my philosophy this New Year, and I'm only submitting to journals I like. I'm not going crazy over marketing plans, etc I don't study my book sales obsessively. I've been a happier writer. Publishing is a tough world - the writing part is easy

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    1. It sounds like your reevaluation has worked for you, Joanne. Trying to do it all and be everywhere at once is a recipe for stress. The good part is that you're still writing and making yourself happy by doing it.

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  17. I really enjoy this post, because it's so true. I've been really lax lately with my commitment. I'm querying a novel, and it's going well, but I need to refocus on my next project. I keep telling myself that my other commitments (editing, internship, work, etc) keep getting in the way, but still.

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    1. Some commitments can't be put aside, no matter how much we'd rather work on something else. But there should always be a commitment to excellence, regardless.

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  18. True words! I love writing and am committed to this crazy publishing journey...even with its possible delays, detours, ups and downs. :)

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    1. That's great, Nicole! Recognizing that there will be delays and detours is half the battle in getting past them.

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  19. I've been treating my writing like my job until this month. I'm writing, organizing, buying for two days of outdoor environmental science with two schools. Friday I had 180 3rd-5th graders out in the woods (local state park) learning about animal adaptations. This coming Friday I have 135 1st and 2nd graders doing the same. I've unfortunately put the rest of my life on hold until it's over for the past month. I'm looking forward to getting back to my wip.

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    1. Sounds like you've had a lot on your plate! The good thing is that you will be so excited to see your wip again that the writing will undoubtedly feel great.

      Animal adaptations . . . might you be showing the children your photos of boxing taxidermied squirrels? (Sorry, but I'm still laughing at that A to Z post of yours, though I'll admit they've all been gems.)

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  20. I couldn't agree with you more. My CP group recently took on new members. A few didn't show, a few were so horrified by criticism they quit, but a few are hanging in there. I'm disappointed with people who say they want to be published, claim they're good enough to be, but don't want to do an of the real work required to get there.

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    1. Makes you want to shake them, doesn't it, Lexa? If you want to hone your skills, listen to the advice you're given and see if it has merit. Criticism isn't necessarily "mean" any more than a negative review *must* have been left by a troll.

      The ones who have stayed with your CP group will be the ones whose work ultimately shines.

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  21. Yeah, X said I needed to be committed. Do you think he meant as a writer?

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I am 99.99% sure that's exactly what he meant.

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  22. Your comment about venting in a letter reminded me of an amusing anecdote.

    I used to have an interim manager who was a real waste of space. After an incident happened at one of the places I worked at, he took the ramblings of my immediate supervisor for gospel and wrote me a letter filled with biased accusations and an invitation to come into the office where he probably planned to ream me a new asshole.

    God, was I pissed at him.

    So I wrote him a six page response filled with vitriolic sarcasm and acerbic retorts commenting on his severe inadequacies as a manager and that there was no way in hell I'd come into the office to suck his dick and apologize for something that wasn't even my fault in the first place.

    I wrote all that down, but I didn't send it.

    Instead I had a good night sleep and read over my letter, laughing and changing the worst insults to something that would probably fly waaaay over his superiority complex, then put it away again. I went to work and let the response rest. After my workday I picked up the letter again and filtered out most of the vitriol and sarcasm, polishing my response until it became four pages of retort that was sharp enough to engrave steel.

    When I was sure there was nothing in it that could bite my ass, I mailed it to him. The end of the response was that my written response was all the response he was liable to receive from me and that I declined his invitation of a personal appearance because I had better things to do than to elaborate on a letter that said everything I had to say.

    I didn't hear from him for months.

    I passed him in the hall when I was at HQ for another occasion and he stopped me and said, "I received your letter. I think it was rather... angry."
    "Not angry," I said and smiled at him. "Merely extremely disappointed."
    Then I walked out.
    A month later he was fired. I can't take credit for that, but I do think I contributed.

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    1. Ah, the old "I'm disappointed in you" line.

      I can only imagine the first draft of that letter! I have a friend who does that all the time when answering stupid emails. She'll leave out the person's addy so as not to send it by accident, but then she'll say all the sarcastic and mean things she would love to say. Once that's out of her system, she writes a politely worded note and adds the address.

      Boy, if that guy thought your final draft was angry, he probably would have been curled up in the fetal position in his office, had you sent him the original.

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    2. Or he would've killed himself. I'm great at getting people off the ledge. One pep-talk by me and you're convinced that suicide is the way out.

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I love comments, and will always answer them, partly because I like having the last word and partly because I just like getting to know the people who read my blog.