Do You Consider Writing To Be Working?

By on October 2, 2016
Do You Consider Writing To Be Working? - Writer's Life.org

I don’t know if you are anything like me, but sometimes I find it hard to get people to take me seriously. Not because of my childlike wonder at the world or giddy sense of humour but because when I describe my job as a freelance writer and author, people seem to think I don’t actually work.

Having asked around a few of my writing comrades, it seems that my problem is not uncommon. Anyone from my parents, my partner and friends to people I meet at dinner parties and, I swear even sometimes my dog (she gives me withering looks when I am still on the sofa in my pyjamas at 10 am) seem to think that because I enjoy my job, and don’t have to squeeze into a starchy business suit, grab my briefcase and head out to a stuffy office each morning, that I am living some sort of charmed existence.

Just because you love your job doesn’t mean it isn’t work

Truth be told I don’t really help myself out. I love my job, and I tell people so. In moments of happy delirium I sometimes even say things like ‘you know, it doesn’t really feel like I’m working at all!’ This, to some extent, probably makes me quite annoying, but those people who don’t like their jobs refuse to believe it. The idea that you could work hard and be happy at the same time is astonishing and ridiculous, so they pat me on the head and assume mum and dad are paying for my rent so I can follow my silly little dreams.

But writing is hard

The thing is, writing is pretty tough. It’s a competitive industry to work in; payment rates vary hugely, and you have to constantly think about where your work is coming from. If projects are about to end, what you can do to make sure you have enough money to pay the bills? How to manage your time, what deadlines are coming up, what your backup plan is if it all goes horribly wrong - and, did I mention the constant threat of rejection and failure that looms over your head even on the very sunniest of days?

Writing is not just about writing there are lots of less exciting bits too. Pitching ideas, following up leads, managing finances, the dreaded tax return…these are all part of one's job as a writer. It’s not all sitting in a sun-dappled room at an oaken desk with your trusty typewriter in front of you, a breeze in your hair and a view of rolling hills and pine forests as far as the eye can see (I often think this is how people imagine writers work).

Writers work all the time

Reading is working, making notes on a bus is working, research is working (if your new book happens to be about a girl who likes to drink a lot of wine and go to spa weekends then it still counts, right?). Seriously, though, when I actually total all the hours I spend writing it ends up being way more than your average 9-5 job. I write first thing in the morning, the last thing at night, I write on long journeys, on the weekends, when I go on holiday - you get the picture.

Just because you don’t work set days doesn’t mean you can drop everything to take an impromptu trip to the seaside. But if you do decide to have a day off, or head into town to do your weekly shop mid-morning on a Thursday it’s probably because you got up at 6 am to write three articles before you came out. Of course, that will be the time that you bump into smug Sandra who says something like ‘Shopping again?’ with a raised eyebrow and a wry smile and then proceeds to tell you how she is rushing in between meetings because her job is, like, soooooooo stressful.

Just because you don’t get paid loads (or at all) doesn’t mean it is not a job. Sometimes writers work for free. Every time I sit down and write my book, that’s exactly what I am doing, and sometimes it is agonising and challenging. So when people treat it as a hobby or a fun pastime, it can feel like you are being kicked in the shins. Trust me, it’s not like I don’t WANT people to pay me to write my book - really, that would be lovely.

Writing for me is a dream job. So when my writing is going well it doesn’t feel much like work, it makes me feel electrified and excited, and all wide eyed and grinny about the possibilities of what could come next. But that doesn’t mean I don’t put the hours in, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t boring bits or days (or months) where I have had to take on jobs so dull they’d make your eyes water just to make ends meet. Or struggle through times where I have felt like I am not getting anywhere and have thought about packing it all in dusting off that suit and joining the glaze-eyed masses to make my life easier.

So is writing work? It certainly is.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Do You Consider Writing To Be Working? - Writer's Life.org

Do You Consider Writing To Be Working? - Writer's Life.org

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