Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Writing is Work

This is a comment on a post by the facebook colleague. He spent 40 years working in a bank and writing in his free time. Now, he is free of the bank and able to write full time. People ask him what he's doing. He says writing, and they don't take him seriously. Their response is, "That's nice. Do you think you'd be able to walk my dog, or trim my garden, since you aren't working?"
I don't get that kind of condescension much anymore, because I have not stayed in contract with people who don't understand I'm a writer. But I know this conversation well. I think it comes from several places. People think of work entirely in terms of money, rather than personal satisfaction or social value. If it doesn't pay a living wage, it isn't work. And people have no idea -- none at all -- how writing is done and how publishing works. I tell people I'm a writer and they ask, "Have you published anything?" They think of writing as either (a) Stephen King or (b) a hobby. Since I am obviously not Stephen King, writing must be a hobby for me. No, it is not a hobby. I have organized my entire life around being able to write, even though I've not been able to make a living at it and so have had day jobs -- many day jobs; I get bored and quit. Now I old enough to collect Social Security, and I'm writing full time. It feels good. It's hard work, and it's real work.


Blogger Tim Susman said...

Amen. I am lucky enough to be able to write full time, and while I don't get the condescension, I do get the "well, you're home all day, can you do errands?" Part of it is because I feel I should do my part around the house and so I *do* do errands and house chores, but you're right. It is work, and not just the work of the writing itself. There is the work of keeping up with editors and publishers, submitting stories, writing to/reading mail from fans, and I'm self-publishing my books on several e-book platforms, so there is the business aspect of that as well. It is running a small business, in addition to keeping the creative flow of writing going--a full time job, and then some.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Leslie Bates said...

I unexpectedly retired as a result of a serious illness. I now now do the housework I used to hate because of sheer boredom. And the main problem I have with writing is that I keep coming up with a better idea after I start a project.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Leslie -- I know that experience. It's best to put ideas in a notebook for later, grit teeth and get on with the current project, unless it turns out to be something you don't want to do.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

I also know the experience of suddenly retiring. Patrick and I got laid off four years ago within one week of each other. Patrick picked up consulting work for two years before finally deciding to retire. I looked for work for a year and a half, didn't find it and applied for Social Security. Unlike many people who got laid off in the current recession, I was old enough to apply. It has taken me several years to get used to not having a job and to finally settle down to writing.

3:30 PM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Tim -- You are right about it being a small business. It took me years to realize that free lancing requires a lot of self-promotion, marketing and networking in addition to the writing, and all that extra stuff is both real work (harder than the writing for me) and unpaid work.

3:34 PM  

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