Writing as a Part-time Job

One of the worst things about being an unknown writer is the daytime job leaves little time for the writing. The paying job requires our attention. Our employers deserve our focus and commitment. Yet our minds drift to our hero, antihero, villain, or plot. We daydream about our themes — important! insightful! award winning! — as we write reports, sit in meetings, and commute.

But we dream of the freedom of putting 5,000 words a day down, of getting that first novel draft done in a month, maybe two, then having months to edit, revise, and restructure. There is the free time to chat with our agent, discuss promotion and events, and plan the timeline of our next release.

But that is not the life we have.  We write in little pockets of free time, hurriedly getting fresh ideas to paper, maybe crank out 500 words, or even a 1,000. Late at night, after the kids are in bed and our spouse asks when we’re coming, we craft a few agent queries. After many months we simply put our books on Kindle and send some tweets. Our book gets 5 purchases a month or, if we’re lucky, some strange, sudden audience buys 30 or more.

Why do we do it? I have struggled with that question much lately.

Is it for money? That would certainly be nice, but so would winning the lottery. When I sit to write, I never think about money. On my commute or during a run, the fantasies of a luxurious life glimmer. But that is superficial to my reasons for writing. It is not organic to it.

Is it for prestige? Being famous or, better yet, being recognized as having an important voice would be nice, for sure. Imagine you’re a new writer on the scene and you’ve won the Hugo Award (your fantasy epic inspired millions!). You stand to speak at the presentation ceremony, ready to give an eloquent speech about your art, how you came to your worldview, and that we all need to save the starving children of Africa. It is a moment. But it is also not why we write.

I think the answer for most of us is simple: we write so other human beings will read what we’ve written. Love it, hate it, admire it, despise it: we want to make another person feel. That is the only important thing.

My short, sort of haiku:

There is nothing beautiful
in poetry
except a face above paper.

We write because the idea that we can engage someone else through the simple act of telling a story is magnificent! Right? That’s why we elevate this hobby to part-time job status, to near obsession at times. We do not crave success necessarily; success is a byproduct of engaging with people.

I have less and less time in my life. For the most part the people around me either don’t know I write or don’t understand why I do it. Is my writing good? I don’t know. I try, then try again. I’ve self-published two books and keep writing more. Maybe I’ll get there one day: find that agent, work through a book deal, and at least know a few thousand people might read my book and have a reaction.

For now, it will remain my part-time job, like Walter White at the car wash.

T.M.

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