Writing and Real Work

Cranky introvert that I am, I can get tired of staring at the same walls sometimes at home.

I decided to treat myself to a workday at a coffee shop. My office is a netbook, so I can do that with the greatest of ease. The change of venue was enough to get me happy and excited about bidding, which was great. I got my day’s quota of work done in a lot less time than it usually takes. Forcing yourself to get your work done before your battery runs out is a great motivation even if you have ample battery power.

As I was wrapping up and treating myself to a couple of sessions of working on some material for which I have no direct client, I ran across a LiveJournal entry from another writer who has a hard time considering writing fiction “real work”.

I get that.  I have a hell of a time forcing myself to work on StoneFlower and Screwskinny if I am not meeting my income quota for the month.  Never mind that if I get the damn things done I’m looking at a month’s income or so from advances. Fiction doesn’t pay what work for hire until you’re at least a midlist writer — a classification of writer that’s swiftly disappearing anyway.  Screwskinny likely has more marketing tie-ins than merely the book, so we’re looking at a lot more money — if it sells.

Notice the language I was using in talking about working on my self-assigned projects.  I was “treating myself”.  Indulging.   That’s nonsense, of course.  I’m writer.  I mean, it’s my job, not my hobby.  Yes, the money comes quicker from the directly-paying gigs, and I do need to take them on to pay rent.   Money-wise, they’re important.

Career-wise?  It’s the writer who has the guts and self-discipline on spec that manages to get her stuff in the bookstores.  So the fiction and the other self-directed projects are very important to my career.

I’ve been asked to develop a specific course that I’ll be teaching in January.  Will I have a hard time working on that?  Nope!  That’ll be directly to a specific project for which I’ll be paid, both as a writer and a computer instructor.  I’ll feel virtuous every time I open that file, take notes, do interviews, or wander around the house delivering the pretend lecture1.  I have a client already there for it.

I think this is part of why breaking into writing books can be so hard, especially fiction.  Disciplining oneself to write and take that writing seriously when you have no idea in the world whether or not you’ll be paid for it can be hard when you have a million things demanding your attention, or when you’re looking at your bank account.  Once you’ve sold your first book, you might very well get an advance on the strength of an outline. Once you know you’re going to be paid, buddy, you have no problem at all calling it work.

1By the time I am in front of a class with a new course, I’ve taught it about four times. Then it gets blown all to hell because the students ask questions and have difficulties I’d never anticipated. Nature of the beast.

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