Many People Still Don’t Understand Writing As a Job

Sometimes I still feel like my family and friends think I sit around writing fluff all day long.

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When I am asked what I do for a living, I say I am a writer.

I used to be proud to say that. Then I realized how many people actually call themselves writers, or say they want to be writers someday. My perspective really shifted when I started writing professionally. Suddenly it became very clear that this skill I had worked so hard to develop, this skill that I was so proud of, did not make me any more marketable than anyone else. It did not make me special. In fact, it made me less valuable in the real world, because apparently, all I did was type words on a keyboard, and that was no longer good enough.

Even if they do not say it out loud, people immediately judge that answer. “I am a writer.” To many of them, being a writer means earning a whole bunch of money just sitting around making up stories. That, or they immediately form a picture in their mind of the stereotypical starving artist, the person who will never do anything important with their life because they refuse to do anything other than what they have spent years training to do.

As much as I sometimes wish that easy, effortless money were the outcome (you know, on those really rough days), it isn’t. For those who think otherwise, listen up. For those who are in my position, you will appreciate this rant.

We, the writers of the world, need people to stop undervaluing our skills.

We, the word wizards, the language masters, need everyone else to stop expecting us to write for free.

We need to be appreciated. Because what we do is neither easy nor repeatable. Unless you have years of training and hundreds of documents in your portfolio like we do, you cannot simply sit down and write the way we write. We can write because it is what we have trained to do, many of us for years, some even decades. It does not mean we think we are better than you. It means there should be more places for us in the workforce, and often times, there are never enough.

So when we apply for jobs, when we submit our work, we are not asking you to take our words and use them for your own personal benefit without decent compensation. “Writing for experience” is something aspiring writers do in college. Many, many of us are past that point. We are professionals. It is time we are treated as such.

Do you think we just sat down, said a magic word and all those words appeared? Do you think we just went onto Google and copied someone else’s ideas? Writing does not take 15 minutes and then it’s over. It can take hours. Days. Weeks. Months. YEARS.

Why, of all the professions, does writing always seem to lay at the bottom of the stack?

If you are a photographer, you get paid to take photographs. If you are a web designer, you get paid to design web pages. So why is it that a writer, the expert communicator, the content creator, who can do a job well that not everyone else can do with such advanced skill, is constantly looked down upon and offered crappy by-the-word pay rates?

Maybe those analogies don’t work. Maybe photographers and web designers have a pretty hard time of it too and I’m wrong to assume. I only know what I know because writing is the only job I have ever had. My whole life, I have been a writer, and my whole life, people have asked me what I want to do with that.

What do I want to do with writing? I want to … write? How is that so complicated?

I do not want to sit around all day and write fairytales, and I shake my head at anyone who thinks that is what writers do. Even authors who write fiction for a living do more than that. Writing is a job. It does not matter if you are writing the next big fantasy series or articles about productivity or press releases for a PR firm.

Writing is a JOB, maybe one of the most important jobs (opinion), and I do not say that because I am a writer. I say that because, without good writers, we cannot sell. We cannot give feedback. We cannot report the news. We cannot give helpful advice or give cautionary warnings or explain why this thing is the way it is. We need writers. And I don’t know about you, but I am proud to be one and I am proud of the WORK, yes, WORK, that I do.

Sometimes I still feel like my family and friends think I sit around writing fluff all day long. Not even close. After awhile writing may come much easier to a person, but that does not mean it is not draining. That does not mean that after a full day of writing, I can still think clearly and feel fully energized because I sat in a chair all day. Quite the opposite. I am exhausted. My brain hurts, because I worked. All day. There are people out there who think this is easy. EASY. If it were easy, everyone could do it. And that is why so many people try. Because they think it will be easy. Because they think they can throw a bunch of words together and make money without much effort. PLEASE STOP.

In no way am I here to discourage anyone from following their dreams and pursuing a writing career. Just know that if that is what you want, you are going to have to work for it. Hard. And if you have family or friends who do not “get” what you do, link them to this post. Maybe it will help them realize that you have a job that is just as important as theirs, and it should be appreciated and valued as such. You are contributing to just as much of the world as anyone else. Never let anyone talk you down.

If nothing else, know that I am proud of you. For wanting to do this, for being willing to put up with the nonsense, for doing what you want to do even though most of the time it does not pay well, and your work goes unappreciated, and you often feel alone. That makes you strong and powerful in your own way. Don’t you ever forget that.

Now get back to that awesome job of yours. ;)

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

The One Thing That Changed When Writing Became My Job Instead of Just My Hobby

I am many different things. That is a kind of freedom I did not realize I needed to embrace.

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I never thought it would happen to me.

No, really. I honestly never thought I would make it this far. Writing is one of those things many, many people say they want to do when they “grow up.” It is a common, seemingly ordinary dream. A career goal many people still shake their heads at. In high school, no one ever actually told me I couldn’t be a writer. They gently steered me toward an English major at a good college. After that, it was up to me to figure it all out for myself.

I almost gave up on writing as a career. I won’t go into the details right now. I didn’t give up, though. By the time I graduated, writing had become pretty much the only thing I was skilled and qualified enough to do. I figured I should at least try to find writing jobs, at least until I could figure out what my degree(s) could get me in the disaster that is the US job market.

Somehow I became the managing editor of a magazine. And a freelance writer. The first paycheck I received for writing something original wasn’t all that long ago, but it was one of the coolest days of my life. Granted, I’m not the best writer out there. But I’m pretty lucky to be able to, at least for the time being, live off of what I earn from dumping all the racing thoughts in my head onto blank virtual pages.

I almost didn’t do it. I almost changed my mind at the last minute. Because I was afraid … afraid that when writing became my job, I wouldn’t want to do it anymore.

In reality, being able to call writing my ‘profession’ has completely changed my life – for the better in most ways, for the worse in a few others. For years, all I wanted to be was a writer. And when you’re younger and you have responsibilities like school and other activities, you often only have time to write every once in awhile. And that was the case with me. Sometimes, it used to be really hard to force myself to write in my free time … because all I wanted to do was, well, not use my brain anymore.

When you spend all day writing, because you have to, there is a cutoff point, at which you do not have to write anymore until the next day if you don’t want to. Then you are free to do whatever you want to do from that point forward. There is less pressure to write on your own time, because you get your fix during the hours you spend working.

I am a writer. But writing as a job has shown me that writing is not all I do – and there is nothing wrong with that. I have other hobbies I truly enjoy pursuing. Now that there is far less pressure to ‘become a writer,’ I don’t have to push myself over the edge anymore just to get something published. If I feel like writing something extra on my own time, I can, and I do. But if I need a break, and just want to watch YouTube videos until three in the morning, technically I can. And I’m not missing out on any writing time, because my office hours are over for the day.

Identity is really confusing when you’re at that stage where you’re trying to define yourself as a writer but technically aren’t one yet. Now I can call myself a writer – it is my job. But because it’s my job, when I close out all my work for the day, I can be anything I want after that. I can be a bookworm and curl up with a Star Wars novel. I can be a musician and write a few songs just because it’s good for my mental health. I can be a runner, and run six miles just because it makes me feel good.

I love being a writer. I am grateful for everything I have and am proud of what I have achieved so far, and what I have yet to accomplish as I continue to grow and develop my skills. But that is not all I am. I am many different things. That is a kind of freedom I did not realize I needed to embrace. The pressure to be one thing and one thing only is gone.

It took 10+ years, but I have finally found balance in my life. I never thought getting a job could make that happen. I’m glad I was wrong.

If you’re feeling totally lost or stuck, just remember that writing does not have to be your everything. You are a writer. But you are also ___, and ___, and ____. Just because you put down your pen for awhile does not make you any less of a person. And if you do spend all your time writing, and that makes you happy, then you are allowed to find joy in that. Writing can be as little or as much a part of your life as you want it to be. It is completely your choice. But writing does not define you.

Never let yourself create an identity based on your writing unless you have an identity separate from that. That is one of the most important things I will probably ever tell you. Because if you are trapped in one of those cycles when you receive rejection after rejection, you can’t let yourself take that personally. It’s your writing that’s being rejected, not you as a person. Remember that. And if you are succeeding as a writer, feel good about that – but keep in mind that you cannot neglect other areas of your life just because your career is taking off.

You might think it will never happen to you. But I have one rule when it comes to writing as a career: never say never. Ever.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Writing Still Makes Me Happy

I’ve let fear stop me from doing a lot of things throughout my life.

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I used to be afraid that the moment I started getting paid to write, I would never enjoy it again.

I was out of college for over a year before I figured out that the pressure I had always thought would come from having to write for a job was actually coming from everywhere and everything else. School, relationships, adulting. Things got in the way of writing all the time. But the moment I would sit down to write, and didn’t have anything else hanging over my head, all that stress would disappear.

Not every writer is like this. No two writers are the same. Some feel pressured to write, and that’s what keeps them writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some don’t feel pressured to write at all, which is ideal, except they sometimes have a hard time getting as much writing done as they’d like.

I’m somewhere in-between, I guess. I think, in some strange way, writing energizes me. Like if I could never write again, I wouldn’t be able to function. That’s kind of a scary thought.

I’ve let fear stop me from doing a lot of things throughout my life. But being afraid that adding a sense of urgency to my writing would make me hate it never felt like a justifiable fear to me. I just decided one day that I needed to give it a try before I decided I wasn’t going to like it. It took a few months to find work. Then I realized I was in love with it before I’d even started. And I’ll never go back.

I’m writing this post after spending 12 straight hours on an assignment for my graduate class. I cried a lot. I’m tired. It was really weird thinking about how I would much rather be working than doing homework. I never would have thought that in college. I won’t lie to you, once you start this whole writing for real thing, you really want to do it full-time. At least, you don’t want to do things you did when you weren’t working, like school.

I write a lot for my classes, but this class in particular has been a challenge for me. I’m not good with numbers. At all. They give me anxiety. I’m behind on my novella and April is almost over. I was planning on working on it today, and I just can’t. It’s late. I’m sorry for all the whining. I just want to write!!!! My characters are lonely!!!!!!

I feel like everything I’ve done this month has been sloppy and unhelpful and wrong. I knew this month was going to be hard and I didn’t prepare myself enough for it. Life’s pressures, all these things in and out of my control, just threw everything off balance. I’m sad.

But the pressure to write, even though I’m technically behind, it’s not there. All the other pressures are just sitting on my keyboard and preventing me from writing. Maybe that’s the problem. If all we had to do all day was write, maybe we really would. That’s why non-writers don’t understand why being a writer is so hard. Because we don’t, we can’t, just sit in a chair writing all day. We have other responsibilities. THAT’S what makes it hard.

If you want to write, if you want that to be your job and then someday maybe your career, don’t worry about the pressure. It’s not the pressure of writing you’ll have to worry about. Someday we’ll all figure out how to balance all this madness. Someday. Not today. But soon.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.