Mind Your Own Business
By Deri Pryor, Graduate Assistant, Bluegrass Writers Studio
How Seriously Do You Take The Business of Writing?
As writers we say it all the time, either shouting it aloud or whispering it in the back corners of our minds: “Boy oh boy, I wish I could make enough money from writing that I didn’t need a real job.”
I mean, really, who of us wouldn’t love to sit at home day after day, in our coziest clothes, doing nothing but indulging our imagination.
Here’s the thing, though: writing is a real job.
Success doesn’t happen by accident, and hard work doesn’t do itself. Anything that will support you financially is going to take effort and organization.
I’m not preaching from the pulpit here. When it comes to disorganization and laziness, I’m offender Numero Uno.
For the first time in my life, I have a home big enough to allow me to have my very own dedicated writing office. It’s not a desk stuck in the corner of the living room, nor is it a space I have to share with anyone or anything else. I have a desk, book shelves, nooks and crannies for all manner of supplies and papers. I even have a honest-to-goodness professional-quality metal file cabinet.
And yet, most of my free time finds me on the couch, in my pajamas, laptop propped on my legs, the TV going on in the background, various dogs snoring on my knee, as I stare at the blank page of a Word document, wondering how to fill it.
Here’s the real kicker: I work as a freelance writer/editor. I write various articles on serious (albeit boring) topics. When I have an assignment, I sit at my desk, in my office. I have a board to write down deadlines, interview questions, potential interviewees, and so on. I file my work and receipts in my file cabinet, and keep careful records of invoices I send out and checks that come in, so that when tax time rolls around I can put it all in a box, dump it on some poor tax preparer’s desk, and scream “Help!” In short, I go to work.
Why am I not being this diligent when it comes to my creative writing endeavors?
Because I’m not taking myself seriously. Why, I don’t know. That’s a topic for a totally different venue. The point is, not taking myself seriously as a creative writer isn’t working out very well.
We are bombarded with outside stimulus constantly. Writing requires us to block all that out and focus on the task at hand. I see posts on social media all the time of quaint coffee shops, sprawling vistas, cozy nooks, with some kind of tag along the lines of: Wouldn’t this be a great place to write?
I’m not so sure about that. Maybe to get inspired, or to recharge the brain batteries, sure. But writing is serious business and hard work. It requires butt in chair and slapping the keyboard (or scribbling on paper if you write long hand, which, by the way, is much more conducive to creativity than typing – look it up). The actual process of writing is just as hard as digging a ditch or adding up numbers. You have to focus. You have to do it, consistently, with as much drive as any other job. Ditch diggers aren’t sitting on mountaintops hoping the ditches are getting deeper on their own. Accountants aren’t at the movies during work hours, hoping those numbers tangoed their way into a spreadsheet while they munched on popcorn.
I came across a blog post the other day in which a woman was talking about how she and a writer friend would meet at coffee shops to talk about writing, lamenting their lack of progress and basically whining about how other people had success and they didn’t. Then one day she messaged her friend to meet up, and the friend messaged back: “Can’t. Working.” Baffled, the woman went on by herself. Anytime after that when she messaged the friend, she got some variation of the same reply. Finally, the friend showed up and explained she had gotten down to the business of writing. She got up the same time every day, took a shower, fixed her hair, put on makeup and clothes that were not her PJs, sat at her desk, and wrote. She was getting it done.
I’m not saying we need to go to that extreme, but the takeaway is that the friend took it seriously and was actually making progress. The woman who posted was still sitting in coffee shops bemoaning her lack of a finished novel. I’m also not saying you can’t write in coffee shops or on top of a mountain. Maybe you don’t have room for an office, or even a desk. Maybe your home life is so hectic you have to get out to find peace and quiet. What I’m speaking of here is attitude. Are you thinking like a businessperson or are you thinking like a tinkerer when it comes to writing?
I know which way I’ve been thinking, and that I have to change. It’s time to get serious.
Published on October 21, 2015