The Agony and Joy of Writing Professionally

Robynn’s post “Not My Dream” yesterday really made me think about my approach to writing as no longer one of a hobbyist. I am a little different. I don’t think I would write if it were just a hobby; in fact, when it was, I didn’t. It would be much easier to dabble in a lot of hobbies, but I’ve found joy in the agony of dropping most of them in favor of honing my skills in writing and pursuing it as a profession. I used to play guitar, Final Fantasy, and even read once and a while. Now, I’ve quit guitar, I still shoot zombies once and a while (for research, of course) and am so swamped with books I have to read that reading often feels like work instead of an escape. The desire to make writing my profession controls my life so that even though I write while at work I still have to put in fifteen hour days to accomplish my goals in writing, editing, reading, blogging, and podcasting.

I was lamenting to my wife about how I am back up to reading six books at once. She asked why, and I pointed out how four of them are because of interviews I’m doing in the next month. She then told me to drop the podcasting if it is too time consuming. I shook my head, told her that I can’t stop because I need the platform for when my book is released. Of course, I savor the opportunity to meet all these fascinating people, gain their advice, and share it with fellow writers, but there is an overwhelming sense that in the flood of ebook publishing, I need a way to build an audience if I want my book to sell. Yes, you could say just write an awesome book and let word of mouth sell it, but I don’t think that’s all there is to being a writer anymore. I want to do this forever, so that means I endure the marketing aspects and appreciate the benefits of lessons learned and people met.

When it comes to reading as work, I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate with myself and say that the way my mind desires to analyze literature, I don’t know that reading has ever been just an escape. Even while reading Dan Simmons Summer of Night, which I classify as a masterpiece in Escapist Horror, I was analyzing Voice, Plot, Characterization, etc. When he wowed me with his ending, at least half my brain was trying to figure out how, while the other half was just as engaged with imagining what would happen next. I might even read just as many books without podcasting hanging over my head because my mood changes so often that I need a book for every flavor. Getting the opportunity to talk to my favorite authors is well worth the “burden” of reading when I could be napping or playing video games.

The biggest reason why I’m glad I approach writing as a profession, and not a hobby, is because I’m sure I would have stopped, be it at the halfway point of the novel, when I realized I was about to rewrite an entire draft (throwing 115k words away), when my mentor told me a story I rewrote a dozen times needed rewriting again, etc. When hobbies get hard, they get replaced, or at least put down until another hobby becomes equally as hard. I believe the only way for me to produce writing that is good enough for me to enjoy is by treating it like a profession. I’d say that’s the only way anyone could, but I don’t make absolutes in writing and art. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is someone out there who is so gifted that their hobby produces better product than people who have slaved their whole lives on the same thing. Knowing I’m not that person means I treat this like a profession. If I don’t, then I pray God takes away this desire to write because I’m not satisfied pursuing any other way of life. No matter the agony of deadlines, the joy of producing high quality fiction I find only in a professional point of view means I’m happy with writing not being a hobby.


About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a Hugo nominated producer for Adventures in SciFi Publishing, who has been lost, broke and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world. He now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer he released two novels: his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant; and Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss.

3 comments on “The Agony and Joy of Writing Professionally

  1. On the downswing of a writer’s roller coaster ride of a journey, I have contemplated my choice to pursue a career in fiction writing. I’ve asked myself, why it couldn’t have been something…easier, more stable and certain of the outcome. Alas, the dream won’t let go of me. The longer I travel this road, the more deeper I want to continue. I think we get to a point, after all the writing, rewrites and editing, that we have to want it more than a hobby or we won’t finish. We’ll set it aside and pursue something less demanding.

    Still, as we’ve discussed the writer’s life through a study on The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, a friend of mine pointed out Hemingway’s sole focus on his dream to be published and its affect on his family, I have to say I cannot allow my dream to take over my life and hurt my family. (oh, and I’m not saying you do this. This was a topic from last week, still fresh on my mind.)

    Which leads me to wonder how that will affect my writer’s journey… (from my comment to him): I’ve heard/read/seen many times where aspiring artists, whether in theater, music, art or literary, sacrifice so much in pursuit of their dreams, and maybe they achieved it or maybe they didn’t, but if we don’t follow suit would that make us any less of an artist?

    • Excellent point, J.L.. I am in a constant battle to maintain my life and please my wife in spite of the demanding schedule. Clearing out Friday nights for date night was a good decision, and I do try and relax once and a while to spend more time with my wife. I recognize her as a priority over writing, but sometimes I need to ask her for time to work on my stuff.

  2. I would say there are three types of hobbyists. The light hobbyist, who does it simply for a brief, stimulating enjoyment. The deeper hobbyist takes it to the next level and devotes a lot of his time to increasing his skill at the hobby. (I think this happens to a writer when they have to edit/rewrite) Then there’s the fanatical hobbyist, who overrides all/most other hobbies in order to become the best at his hobby. I would say you’re at level 3 and probably have to be in order to make a living off of it. It’s at that point that the hobby ‘graduates’ to work. I’m currently in level 2 and do not want to go to level 3 as I don’t feel writing full time is my calling yet, and I’d be afraid of burning it out as I’ve done with other things. Also I write cause I enjoy it, and if I lose that, as I suspect level 3 would cause me to do for the most part, I’d have to/want to stop. Oh yeah, I do intend to be published, and I do have a secret marketting plan and intend to publish. 🙂

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