Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writing is a REAL Job

A few days ago I got a phone call from a friend of mine. He asked me, “So, are you going to do something productive today?” Let me see, I’m going to jump inside someone else’s brain, attempt to tell that person’s story coherently and completely including all emotions, sights, sounds, feelings, smells, tastes, passions, flaws and strengths, I’m going to research said story so I can at least fake that I know what I’m talking about, I’m going to spend hours editing a previous attempt at the above hopefully without pulling my eyelashes out one at a time, I’m going to update my seventy two social networks to get people interested in my stories, I’m going to write for my blog, my friends’ blogs, my publisher’s blog, and any other blog I can beg, bribe or hack into to further pimp my work, I’m going to attend a class to learn one hundred one ways to describe the female leg, I’m going to answer the eighty one emails that found their way into my inbox in the past hour, and somewhere in there I’m going to try to be a good mother, clean my house, prepare food (OK, that’s a lie), and take a shower since I haven’t actually looked after my own hygiene in three days. Sometime between 11:32 and 11:33 PM, I’m going to lounge in a bubble bath eating bon bons.

Movies portray writers as being intelligent, creative loners who spend their days banging out the next best seller on their vintage type writer. When they’re done they wrap their manuscript in brown paper and send it off to their publisher who has dedicated the entire force and power of their publishing house to this one watershed work of fiction. They spend millions of dollars promoting the author’s work so that the day it hits the shelves it’s a New York Times bestseller. Six months later, the writer cashes a multi-million dollar check. While every writer I personally know is a creative genius, the rest of this scenario is complete crap. Most writers are anything but loners. They have kids, spouses, friends, pets, editors, publishers, critique partners, beta readers, and about a million other people they have to interact with on a daily basis. After a writer sends her manuscript to a publisher they wait….and wait….and wait. Theystress, pray and sacrifice virgins hoping that someone will send them a personal rejection letter instead of one line that says, “This is crap. Consider a career as a pet groomer”. After months, probably years, of sending query letter after query letter to anyone who has ever heard of the concept of the written word they might land a publisher. Forty five rounds of edits later the novel you thought was perfect when you sent it in is published. That’s when the real work begins. The publisher does promote your book, but you must realize you are not your publisher’s only writer. Understand that most of the promoting is up to you. You give interviews, guest on anyone’s website that will give you two inches of space, write blog after blog after blog and send your book out for review to anyone who can string words together and write a coherent sentence.

Writing is work people! People say all the time, “How fortunate for you that you get to work from home. I wish I could stay in my pajamas all day. I would love to spend all day with my kids. You are so lucky.” You want to know why I stay in my pajamas all day. I don’t get dressed because I don’t have the freaking time to get dressed!Oh, and it’s awesome to be with my daughter all day. Yesterday, while writing the emotional climax of my story, she bursts into my room to tell me her cousins have come over to play and that they’ve liberated the dog who is now making a break for freedom through a greasy mud puddle, my kitchen and across my couch. But, they do get one thing right, I am lucky. I get to spend the day doing the one thing I love more than anything else. I get to live vicariously through imaginary people with exciting lives. Everyday someone tells me what I write isn’t crap. I really do have the greatest job in the world, but it is still a job.


Unknown said...

So true, Valerie! I've had people say that I should 'get a real job' right to my face. As far as I'm concerned they can go do something that's too crude for me to mention in this comment.

Casea Major said...

OMG OMG! LOL This is my life. FOR REAL. Yes - I just changed out of PJs and ate cold pancakes that my DH made for breakfast...five hours ago.
Crazy. Insane. The greatest thing I have ever experienced and I couldn't stop writing if I tried. Great post Katie. Good to know I'm not the only psycho writer out there.

J.A. Campbell said...

OMG so true. Add into that chaos a full time day job for those of us just getting started :) (except I don't have kids)

Thanks for sharing!

Julie/J.A. Campbell

Bea said...

I'm not a writer (unless my blog counts) but I don't doubt that every writer I know would agree with you completely and maybe add an "Amen!"

Writing is a job, it's work, and this reader appreciates it. :)

Jessica E. Subject said...

Oh Katie, I can so relate!

But I must stick up for the pet groomers out there. I used to work with three different professionally trained groomers who often had to fix up cuts done by groomers who trained online or with at-home courses.

I guess that just means it's the same with any job. There will always be people who don't take it seriously.

Robert C Roman said...

“This is crap. Consider a career as a pet groomer”.

Y'know, that's BETTER than some of the rejections I got. Not as good as the best of my rejection pile, but still better than about 90% of them.

I think for any creative person loathing is better than apathy.

Eve Edwards said...

Totally agree with this post! Only writers get 'Oh, can you do this for me since you're going to be home all day' routine. Yeah, writing, blogging, revising, and promoting just magically happen while we sleep with no efforts on our part!

Barbara Elsborg said...

That was a great post!! I'm sure was can all identify with it. And coincidentally - as I write this - I get call from Kitchen from Son - who has no idea how to clean a particular bit of the juicer. Will I do it? I'm not busy am I?

Anonymous said...

Great story & I totally agree. It is hilarious & so true. I'm an accountant with a home-based & it is much the same for me(especially the pj's thing because there isn't enough time to get dressed or take a shower on some days) Good writing!

Liz said... found a virgin to sacrifice? damn. I knew I was missing something! GREAT post.
I am a small business owner (craft beer) and so am out and about all the time, selling, talking, convincing people my beer is the best out of thousands of craft options so I am the exact opposite of "loner". Fitting in the writing is a challenge, but just as real to me as the beer biz! cheers