Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is Writing a Job?

Follow my crazy train (crazy-train?) of thought: Daphne Unfeasible (aka Agent Kate Testerman) posted a link to the blog of her client, Catherine Cheek, who was writing about writing and the day job, to which author Matthew Cody responded.

Catherine said this:
I think it's helpful to think of writing as a hobby instead of a career. For most of us, that's all it will ever be.

Matthew said this:
I’ve sold two books, but I’m the sole support of my family of three, therefore I teach English and ESL at the community college, which is a rewarding job with time off to write. I’m planning to have a day job for a long, long time, even if I sell more books, because that’s the reality of this business for most of us.

But on my taxes I put “Writer”.
When asked what I do for a living, I answer “Writer”.
My “hobby” is collecting comic books (yes I’m that kind of nerd).


Am I writer? I write, yes, but is it my profession?

I have a day job. I teach. I teach high school English. Which means I don't work 9-5. I work 8-3...and even if I get summers off, during the school year, I spend at least 10 hours a week outside of school on grading and lesson plans and faculty meetings and not stabbing myself in the eye with my red ink pen because they still don't know the difference between their, there, and they're.

That's the job I get paid (very little) for. If I have two things to do 1) revise manuscript or 2) grade essays that are due tomorrow--I grade the essays first, and am usually too tired afterwards to do anything else involving words and not involving gin. On official records, my profession is teacher. My w-2 comes from the school. I introduce myself to strangers as a teacher (in part to avoid the awful "have you been published?" question). I have been known to not mention writing to close personal friends (re: "have you been published?" question).


I do not treat writing as a hobby. I don't do it for fun. Or, I don't do it just for fun. I do it with the intent of (one day) making money from it. I spend money on it, and consider it an investment, not entertainment. I intend to explore writing off expenses in my taxes. I give myself deadlines--which usually hurt. If I have to either grade student essays or revise my manuscript--and I'm not working on a deadline for report cards that are due tomorrow--I revise the manuscript. I do not make a secret of my writing life, even if I'm not always forthcoming about it, and I'm happy to talk about books, publishing, and the like on a professional level. I read novels as research, not entertainment. I network. I send queries off. I behave like a professional at conferences.

Does that a writer make? Which is the dividing line: the paycheck, or the attitude?
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