Mark Terry

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Writing For A Living

January 28, 2007
Since I mentioned a couple blogs ago that I had a recurring nightmare that I had to go back and work at the hospital, it seems clear to me that there is precious little else I would be happy doing for a living (although if someone wants to give me a few billion and run a philanthropy, I'm open to the idea). This guy, whose name is Charlie, wrote a great blog about the truth of writing for a living. Here's a sample:

Being a self-employed writer is not a lifestyle that suits everyone. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions about what the job entails. I've been doing it full-time for over six years now, so while I can't claim an encyclopedic knowledge I can at least give you a brain dump of my personal perspective on it.

Firstly, forget the romance of the writer's lifestyle and the aesthetic beauty of having a Vocation that calls you to create High Art and lends you total creative control. That's all guff. Any depiction of the way novelists live and work that you see in the popular media is wrong. It's romanticized clap-trap. Here's the skinny:

You are a self-employed business-person. Occasionally you may be half of a partnership — I know a few husband-and-wife teams — but in general novelists are solitary creatures. You work in a service industry where output is proportional to hours spent working per person, and where it is very difficult to subcontract work out to hirelings unless you are rich, famous, and have had thirty years of seniority in which to build up a loyal customer base. So you eat or starve on the basis of your ability to put your bum in a chair and write. BIC or die, that's the first rule. Lifestyle issues come a distant second.


Best,
Mark Terry

11 Comments:

Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Hah! I write 20 - 45 hours a week. If you knew how little I made, you'd laugh me right out of that chair.

Remember how much fun it was to curl up with a good book when you were young, one you picked out all by yourself at the library or bookstore? Okay, now remember how much fun it was to curl up with your assigned reading in English, 11th grade?

Okay, it's not that bad. It's fulfilling and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But somedays, it also is that bad. And all the NY-published authors keep telling me it gets worse. See first point; if it doesn't get better, don't tell me, LOL.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

I just want to go to work in my pajamas.

And I liked the assigned reading in High School. Am I a freak?

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I love not having to commute. I reckon that saves a working day a week. And not having my time wasted in meetings or reading memos must be another day. But you really have to be a shark. You have to keep moving. You don't work you don't eat.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Ron Estrada said...

I doubt there's a profession that's as glamorous as Hollywood portrays it. Although they seem to understand an actor has to kiss butt for the first twenty years of his career. I love the opening of "Romancing the Stone," where the leading lady, a writer, types the last few words of her romance and celebrates with her cat. Yeah, right.

P.S. I'm on my third attempt with the hyrogliphics for comment posting. I think I got this one.

As you've pointed out to me, though, Terry, you are in charge of your own destiny. Just look at Ford right now. I'm out of that mess, but remember when an engineering gig at Ford meant you were set for life?

I'm happy with my job now, but I must admit a bit of jealousy over you guys who make your own way, un-glamorous though it may be.

4:11 PM  
Blogger Rob Gregory Browne said...

I write just a half hour a day while eating cavier, just before jetting off to my condo in New York, where I'm greeted by a bevy of supermodels who hang on my every word.

When it gets too cold, I jet to my house on the beach in Honolulu where island girls fan me with palm fronds.

Isn't that what it's like for all writers?

10:20 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Rob,
I want what you've been smokin', man.

Ron,
In that I'm owed a ton of money and the only income I've received the ENTIRE month of January to-date was $400, you might really wonder if you REALLY want my lifestyle. Yeah, the check's are in the mail.

Eric,
To my mind, not having a commute is definitely one of the REAL perks.

Going to work in your pajamas, Aimless? My wife always teased me that that was what I was going to do when I did write at home, and to-date the only time I've done it was when I had the stomach flu and yet still had deadlines to hit, so I worked from the couch in between trips to the bathroom to barf.

In fact, freelancing isn't a bad lifestyle. It's a great lifestyle, and I think it's a great job. But if you're serious about it, it's worth noting that they call it a JOB for a reason. And damn, the check's ALWAYS in the mail.

4:46 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Work in Pajamas? I did that Saturday. Hubby was out of town so I spend the entire day in my pj's writing. I got alot accomplished that I probably wouldn't have if I had actually pulled myself together. Then I would have thought about what else had to be done.

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