Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Writing is Work

This is a comment on a post by the facebook colleague. He spent 40 years working in a bank and writing in his free time. Now, he is free of the bank and able to write full time. People ask him what he's doing. He says writing, and they don't take him seriously. Their response is, "That's nice. Do you think you'd be able to walk my dog, or trim my garden, since you aren't working?"
I don't get that kind of condescension much anymore, because I have not stayed in contract with people who don't understand I'm a writer. But I know this conversation well. I think it comes from several places. People think of work entirely in terms of money, rather than personal satisfaction or social value. If it doesn't pay a living wage, it isn't work. And people have no idea -- none at all -- how writing is done and how publishing works. I tell people I'm a writer and they ask, "Have you published anything?" They think of writing as either (a) Stephen King or (b) a hobby. Since I am obviously not Stephen King, writing must be a hobby for me. No, it is not a hobby. I have organized my entire life around being able to write, even though I've not been able to make a living at it and so have had day jobs -- many day jobs; I get bored and quit. Now I old enough to collect Social Security, and I'm writing full time. It feels good. It's hard work, and it's real work.

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