The Jobby of Writing

1361061_designing_on_a_tabletWriters (I assume like any artists) get pressured. As if creating something out of nothing isn’t hard enough, we get to take crap for

  • not producing fast enough
  • not selling what we do produce
  • not being interesting
  • wasting our time instead of doing something productive

It’s all basically the same thing with variations on emphasis.

Is it an American problem? This idea that if I don’t sell it, it’s worthless? Is art for art’s sake so bad? Video gamers don’t take this kind of abuse. We hear about the guy who spends 6 hours a night playing Halo or whatever, and we laugh and nod. “Yeah, I been there.” Of course, the gamer who does this for years gets pity and eventually divorced.

(For the record, I have no problem with gamers. Hello? Farmville?)

Dave Ramsey says if you spend more than you make on an activity, it’s a hobby (that’s a paraphrase). Writers always spend more than they make, in time, if not in currency. It takes time to write, time all by yourself, away from everyone and everything. It is a solitary practice. I suppose some writing teams exist, but I doubt many of them are two people hunched over a keyboard discussing everything. Talk about time suck.

I appreciate that people want to get published, get famous, get rich, or any combination of the three by writing. Those were never my goals, but they’re not bad goals. They’re very understandable considering how much a writer gives up by pursuing the craft. It’s reasonable to expect compensation.

I don’t have a point other than every writer (and gamer) needs to consider what they expect in return for their investment. If you want the fame and the wealth, you must treat the journey like a job. Work your guts out. Train like an Olympian. Give up time with your family. Even if you do this, you may not make it. How many athletes don’t get the gold?

If you just love writing, and the fame, fortune and whatnot isn’t your driving force, then writing for you is a hobby. It may be an all-consuming hobby, but hobby it is. Doesn’t mean you can’t get published. Just means if you do, you’ll make most of the rest of the world incredibly jealous. That can be rewarding in and of itself.

Trying to have it both ways makes writing a jobby (if you use that word like I use that word, you understand my full meaning). You’re half in, half out. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be.

Former therapist that I am, I advise all writers to examine their motives. Figure out why you write, and that should determine your path: job or hobby. Once you’ve figured it out, proclaim it boldly and without embarrassment.

I mean, you don’t see many apologetic gamers, do you? At least you produce something tangible. I just collect graphics of funny trees.

About Robynn Tolbert

Born in Kansas and born again at age six, Robynn has published two novels and started her third. Robynn, aka Ranunculus Turtle, lives in Kansas with a clowder of cats, a patient dog and a garden.

3 comments on “The Jobby of Writing

  1. I think that, unless you are presented with a sizeable advance, it’s better to treat writing as a hobby with the potential to one day, possibly, maybe, become a job. A few years back I heard about a guy who quit his high-paying day job to focus on a writing career based on a positive comment from a publisher. I couldn’t decide if that was brave or foolhardy. Not sure I’d have the guts to gamble my future like that. Stephen King made the transition from teacher, but not until he’d sold Carrie for a hefty advance.

  2. It all depends on how you define “writing.” If you’re only talking about novel-writing, then yes, it’s a long journey to profitability. But there are ways of making a living by writing. Journalism, and now freelancing, proved to be good ways for me to take the writing skill set and make money at it. Of course, journalism wound up being a blessing and a curse. It made me a great copyeditor but hampered my novel-writing abilities.

    Still, just as a fine art painter can make a living in illustration or graphic design, writers can make a living with their language skills.

  3. A lot depends on your point of view, I suppose. If you’re just writing to make yourself happy, that’s fine. But sometimes the things you write also resonate with a lot of other people and find a nice spot in the market. Other times, you write things that are so oddball, only a small niche will enjoy them. And that’s okay, too. Not everybody can appreciate quilt patterns and hand-knitted afghans, either.

    Writing can either be a business or a hobby, and the people I’ve noticed who make a living at writing treat it like a business and do it every day.

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