Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In Defense of Writing as a Job

Well, I thought I was done writing ranty posts for the time being. But apparently I was wrong, because during my blogging hiatus, I encountered a couple posts that got my blood boiling again. First, a published author wrote an article about going broke, which was problematic in its own right. Then another person responded with a problematic post claiming that you can't make a living as a writer because writing isn't a job. While I agree that many writers will still need to supplement their income (that's a different discussion altogether, and not one I'm qualified to lead), I completely disagree with the second part of that statement. So that's what we're going to talk about in this post. And if you want to read a full-time writer's response to this issue, you can find that here. (Be forewarned, some of the language in these posts is NSFW.) 

Let's talk about jobs. You can earn cash doing anything from walking dogs to staring at chicken butts all day. You can scrub toilets, fly airplanes, protect famous people, make things out of wood, mix soda flavors, or taste-test ice cream. There are literally so many types of jobs out there, it isn’t even funny. But while there is a plethora of work to be done, there are only a handful of positions that are taken seriously across the board. For instance, as Cait @ Paper Fury has so wisely pointed out, people complain about writers writing things for money all. The. Time. But those same people are not going to rag on dentists for earning a living pulling teeth and filling cavities. 

Since I only have myself as an in-depth illustration for this discussion, we’re going to talk about me. (Oh dear. It’s unseemly to burst into tears of joy like that. Restrain yourself, my child.) 

Growing up, I knew I wanted to make writing my career, if at all possible, not because I figured it would make a ton of money, but because I figured—I love doing this, why not get paid to do this all the time? Ever since little seven-year-old me learned how to write a proper story in Ivory Coast, I have spent considerable amounts of time putting words on paper and figuring out how to make those words sound better. But I was in high school when I finally decided to change my focus. Instead of writing for a future job, I decided to treat writing like it was a job I already had. I changed my writing status from hobby to responsibility

Remember, I was in high school, and since my mother (who is a certified teacher) was the one assigning my schoolwork, I had quite a lot on my plate. Over those four years, I studied Latin, French, Rhetoric, Bible, Logic, Essay Composition, Short Story Writing, Novel Writing, Literature, History, Algebra, Geometry, Biology, Marine Biology, General Science, Physics, Government, and Karate. (And let’s face it, I can’t even be sure that’s a complete list, since half the time I can’t even remember what year I graduated.) On top of that, I had household chores like cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, and washing dishes, not to mention the days I had to stack wood and shovel snow. These were all time- (and energy-) consuming things. Also, when I was sixteen and seventeen, I spent my summers working as a counselor/life guard at a camp, and even though I was on call 24/7, I spent what little free time I had doing schoolwork ahead so I would have the entirety of November off for NaNoWriMo. So when I say my plate was already full, I’m not exaggerating. No one—absolutely no one in their right and proper mind—would have blamed me for using my free time for more relaxing pursuits, like reading, or digging out my eyes with a blunt object. 

However, because I knew that I wanted to work as a published author more than anything else, I decided that, on top of all my obligations, I was going to log the hours and make sure I did my best to make that happen as soon as possible. 

For my junior and senior years especially, I began waking up at 4:00 in the morning so I would have time to get some writing done before starting my schoolwork at 6:30. (I started schoolwork that early because I wanted to finish it in time to take advantage of prime afternoon writing hours.) At about 1:30, I would make coffee and dive into writing until supper (at about 6:30). Following supper, if I had time, I would run upstairs and write until bedtime, at which point I would read for a while and then sleep for six to seven hours, only to pop out of bed and do the same thing every. Single. Week day. On Fridays, I would watch Star Trek and Doctor Who in the evenings before writing late into the night. On Saturdays I would let myself sleep in, but then I would spend as much time writing as I could. Usually I tried to reserve Sundays for resting, but I am bad at taking breaks, so sometimes I would write more in the times between church and youth group. 

And guess what came from all that determination. 

I edited one-and-a-half novels, queried agents for one novel and received some interest, and wrote over 600,000 words in rough drafts (about ten different books). This isn’t even counting all the papers I had to write for school. 

After I finished editing TIME IN A BOTTLE and sent out my query letters, I added up all the time I’d spent working on that project alone, and the end result came to about 1000 hours. 1000 hours of sitting in my armchair or in bed, drinking copious amounts of tea and coffee, slowly whittling away at the structural integrity of my wrists. I can guarantee you that at least 750 of those hours I wanted to be doing anything else. 

That is not nothing. 

That is not a hobby. 

Nowadays I typically let myself sleep for a full seven hours a night if I can manage it, and I get up at 5:00 in the morning instead of 4:00 (five days out of seven). I work Fridays through Sundays at my custodial job. After work on Fridays I go right to Starbucks and write there for three to four hours. When I get home from work on Saturdays, I try to push myself to write for at least a couple hours before going to bed. 

Of course, I am a little nicer to myself, now that I don’t have school on top of everything else, so I usually let myself have two to three hours of reading time a day. I also like to spend time with our landlord’s dog, because there is nothing like hugging a big, fluffy, overgrown puppy. But aside from work and church, I don’t get out much. 

Yes, I am not getting paid at the moment. But eventually I will get paid for the work I am doing now. So it’s a job. I do it when it’s hard. I do it every day even when I want to stay in bed. I do it because stories, like surgeries, benefit the world. I do it because I have to log the hours before I can get paid. 

To those who say what I do is not a job, I say excuse your butt. You do not want to see my under-eye circles. You do not know how much I want to fight someone every morning when I haul myself out of bed. You do not understanding how tempting it can be to accidentally put my laptops in the dishwasher so I don’t have to write another word. The fact of the matter is, art does not get enough respect. People are happy to buy paintings and watch movies, but so many people are just as happy to download music and books without paying. Because to them, artists (aside from the major bestsellers) are not worth supporting, are not worth paying, are not worth feeding. Our efforts go unrecognized. Our work gets downplayed to hobby status, our careers made to look like lazy lives. 

A hobby is something you do because you enjoy doing it and because it helps you unwind. You do not need to take vacations from your hobby. Your hobby does not sometimes make you cry. It does not force you to face and overcome your crippling self doubt on a daily basis. It does not make you want to sleep for a year. Hobbies are not things you procrastinate from and avoid. They are what you do to procrastinate

So don’t ever say that writing is not a job, that it is not work. Do not test me. I have two laptops full of novels, and I will take them out of the dishwasher and smack you with them. 

What about you, my little coffee beans? What are some of your arguments in defense of writing as a job? Did you read Chuck Wendig’s response post? What are your thoughts on the post that started this all? 


  1. BLESS THIS POST ALL OVER THE GALAXIES, I COULDN'T AGREE MORE. I get absolutely furious when people hate on writers for "writing for the money". I just...I can't even with that entire ideal. Maybe we should ask musicians in orchestras to stop playing their instruments for money, or painters to stop selling their paintings. It's ridiculous how people treat artists. It's when is the universe going to catch up with the fact that art is not only incredible important, it defines culture?!? Gah.. Okay. hhhaa. I'll calm down.😂
    I'm not paid to write. YET. But I want it to be my career. And I want to get paid because I believe I (and every writer!) deserves to get paid for what they're good at.
    I will stand behind you if you start smacking the haters with your laptop. Your squeaky clean laptops, obviously, since you keep them in the dishwasher. *nods*

    1. AWW, THANK YOU! Why are people so awful? Why?? Why is it a crime for a writer to do their JOB? *bangs face on keyboard* The next time I'm going to the dentist, I'm totally going to expect him to do it for free, since he probably loves pulling teeth and shouldn't be asking for money to do something he loves. *growls* I know. Everyone eats up all the art and then acts like it's nothing and artists are nothing. Like no, shut up, sit down. Whichever one of us wins this battle for the throne, I know the artists of the world will be in better hands. XD
      Same. Like, I love doing it, but it is still work. It's still time and effort, and it still requires sacrifice. I think that's worth something. And as the Joker so wisely says, "If you're good at something, never do it for free."
      :P They are most definitely squeaky clean now.

      Thank you for commenting! :)

  2. THIS POST. It is so important, and not just to writers. I tutor in math, and I get so much 'that's not a real job' because I'm not someone who teaches from 8am-3pm Monday to Friday (yet). In our modern world, almost anything can be a job, and we all play different parts in society, and everyone deserves respect and payment for their work.

    Art is just as important as science and math, and as someone who has a foot in each camp, I think that that they are at their best when used together. No job is any less important than any other job. People read books, we need writers. And writers should be paid for their work, just like everyone else.

    Great post! :)

    1. Ugh. Why are people so frustrating? It's like they have five jobs they respect, and then their minds are too small to recognize all the other lines of work. I think anyone who works hard, no matter what they do, should be respected for their efforts.

      It is, and even though I'm not a huge fan of math, I agree that the fields complement each other and work together well (which is part of the reason why I love The Martian so much). Why do people feel the need to decide the importance or unimportance of another person's job?

      Thank you, and thank you for commenting! :)

  3. Gosh! Thank you! Why don't people get it? I mean, most of them think that writing is hard, so why wouldn't they think that writing is work. So much work that, hey, this writing thing could actually be a job! Who would've thunk? Nobody looks down on artists when they paint for money. They're painters; it's what they do. Writers are the same in concept.