Writing Is a Job – So Act Like It

Block jointAn acquaintance of mine, upon learning that I write for a living, sighed in disgust and shook his head. “So,” he said,  “you’re telling me you just sit around and write books all day?”

Now, I am a lady, so I will keep my unabridged opinion of this fellow out of the public eye. I think it’s perfectly appropriate, however, to share my complete disgust with people who look at writers this way. What in God’s name are you doing with your life, sir, that doesn’t involve some hours spent “sitting around and writing?” What noble pursuit do you spend your time on that requires no paperwork, no e-mailing or texting clients, no preparing a plan for the job ahead?

Writing is not a frivolous pursuit. Whether you’re preparing a proposal for a construction job or crafting a literary masterpiece exploring the darkest corners of human consciousness, you are laboring when you sit down to compose something. Never forget this. Never walk away from a novel because you don’t think it’s “real work.” Never abandon a poem in its first draft because you could be doing “more productive things” with your time.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be a professional writer – and not just because this is an unforgiving profession where you must learn to thrive on criticism from your peers. Full-time artists of all kinds are constantly being told that we aren’t doing real work, that our labor isn’t worth money, that we’re just tricking people into paying us for doing something ‘fun.’ Ignore the people who tell you that.

If you need convincing, try keeping tack of the hours you spend crafting your pieces, finding clients, and developing the ideas that make your writing great. If the documentation of your own labor can’t convince you that you’re doing ‘real’ work, then consider asking a friend to gently but firmly slap some sense into you before you lose your rhythm in your latest project. One of the easiest ways to fail as a creative writer is to stop believing that what you do ‘counts.’ Stop selling yourself short.