You bet it’s a job

It’s not a ‘job’ if you love doing it.

Image via Dreamstime Free

I’ve seen this comment several times lately made in reference to writing for a living.

The first time was directed to one of the writers I chat with a lot on twitter, Yasmine Galenorn.

Well, the first thing I want to say… ?

I loved nursing, especially the years I spent working with kids.

But um…the vast majority of people are going to agree that nursing is a job.  Whether you love it or not.  Loving it doesn’t make it any less work.  It just makes it easier to do the work without hating the work.

And I’m rambling off tangent…I wanted to focus on writing as a job.  I can see, in general, where people think that when you love what you do, it makes it easier to do the job, as opposed to when you hate it.

Perhaps that’s the idea behind this comment?

I’m not sure.

But I really, really hope there aren’t aspiring authors out there operating under the assumption that if they can just get a contract…it gets easier from there on out and they will have their dream job.  If they are writing for a living, then it will so much easier than whatever they are doing in their dayjobs.

Let me state, up front, that while I love what I do for a living… make no mistake:

I work harder as a professional writer than I ever did as a nurse.


It doesn’t get any easier after you sign a contract, after you land an agent, after you sign a second contract, a third.  After you and your agent have a parting of ways and you have to start searching all over for a new agent… and try doing that job when you’ve got a proposal floating around and you desperately need advice.

Getting that first contract doesn’t mean you’ll never again experience the sting of a rejection.  It doesn’t mean you’ll never again have an agent pass on you, for whatever reason.

Those are the things the unpublished, aspiring author worries the most about, and those are worries that continue even after you’ve signed contracts.  I’ve been doing this professionally since 2004, and yes, I still have to worry about rejections-yes, I still get them.  When my old agent and I had a parting of ways, yes, I had agents pass on me.

But on top of those things, once you’re published, you now have new things.

There are deadlines.  For the book to be finished, for the synopsis/partials for following books in the contract, if you went the traditional route.  And those deadlines are important, especially early on.

There are also deadlines for edits-imagine the fun of opening your door one morning, when you’ve kids to get to school, a couple of doctors appointments, groceries to buy, you’ve got a deadline looming for the next book, and there is a white envelope from fedex… (although lately, all my edits are via emailed galleys) and included in those edits?

A little note that reads…

here are the edits/galleys/whatever…the deadline is such and such date (which is usually like 7-10 days away).

Plans for that weekend?  Um.  Maybe not.  If the plans can’t be canceled or changed, then look forward to several late, late nights.  And imagine the fun if you write for multiple places… I’ve had edits show up from Berkley and Samhain in the same week.  With a deadline looming the following month for a different project.

But those edits have to be done–everything moves on a certain schedule in publishing and if you don’t get those edits turned in, then you put them behind on the schedule…and know what that means? Well, that book that’s due out in July?  Maybe it won’t be out in July.  You messed up the timetable and since the schedule is a damned tight one, I dunno where they’d put you in at. You’ll get in, but where?  A few months down the road? Six months?  Better off just not to miss the deadline.

There’s promo, and contrary to what some people think?  Those pens and bookmarks and totebags and magnets, most authors don’t have a promo budget.  That’s on your dime, but spending money on promo is kind of necessary.  It doesn’t have to pens, bookmarks, etc, but you do need to spend the money, because now you’re self-employed and if you don’t shell out so much money on expenses and stuff, the IRS takes an even bigger chunk out of your tail.  Promotional expenses are an easy way to do it, easy to do, yes, but you still gotta pony up the dough, and that’s not always that easy, because again, contrary to popular opinion, getting published doesn’t mean we’ve got it made in the shade.

There’s the hassle of websites, and while most writers probably already know this, that’s another expense that’s on you, and once you’re contracted, keeping that site up to date is crucial because letting it lag behind is one easy way to lose readers.

There’s the mess with social media… which ones should you do, how much to do, whether you should do it all…

There’s the major, and I do mean major worries, that come up after you finish one contract up and start trying to negotiate another one.  And just because you got one contract, that doesn’t mean you’ll get another.  Even if you sold okay.  Selling okay isn’t enough.  A writer can get dropped for not being picked up by Walmart.  Shoot, I vaguely recall hearing about a writer who had a 3 book contract for a trilogy and the publisher can decided not to publish the third book.  All of these worries are why so many authors hustle with the promo and the social media because we don’t want to risk being the next author who gets dropped, or risk being the one who doesn’t receive an offer when we try to go back to contract-and yes, that does happen.

And on top of all of that, we still have to write.  Not when we feel like it, or when the mood strikes us, or when the ‘muse’ is there (I’m not a muse writer).  We have to write.  We’ve signed contracts, we’re obligated to fulfill them and that’s all there is to it.   It’s not just the one book for many of us either–even while we’re working on whatever book is due, we’re thinking about the next, and the next….

Writing, in the end, is only part of it.  It’s the easiest part, but ‘easy’ is relative.  There’s a whole lot more that goes into being a professional writer than just writing.

All of this-all of the time… you bet it’s a job. Whether you love it or not, it’s a job.

6 Replies to “You bet it’s a job”

  1. Hi Shiloh
    This post proves that the grass always seems greener on the other side. I guess I thought that if you’re artistic
    & creative, it’s always there when you need it. Forgot about writer’s block & polishing the work. you forgot to mention your nutty Canadian fans LOL.

  2. Great post that pretty says it all.

    My writing has bought my groceries, kept a roof over my head, sent my kid to college, allowed my sweetie to take way early retirement, and has been my full time, seven-day-a-week job for 28 years.

    It’s also always struck me as ironic that publishing is populated by control freaks who’ve chosen a career where we HAVE NO CONTROL!!! Except over The Work. And sometimes even that’s iffy. 🙂

  3. I love this post Shiloh. Even though you said the up and downs of writing I still want to be published and get that contract because I love it. I love to write. I’m a stay at home mom my husband takes care of me so no, I don’t care about the money I only want my book to be on shelves. I love polishishing, revising, and even editing myself. In a college graduate so I’m used deadlines and I hardly ever sleep. My ideas come mostly at night. Lol… Thanks for the post and hoping to get that agent soon, even if takes me years I know it will happen. Good luck to all aspiring writers out there.

  4. Great post, Shiloh, and so true. Sometimes I get calls during the day and my fam members ask what I’m doing. “Actually, I’m writing right now…” I start, which they take as an invitation to launch a conversation. Whereas if I were cooking dinner, they’d apologize for interrupting and ask me to call back later.

    Caller ID can be a writer’s friend. 🙂

  5. You’ve hit everything square on the nail, Shiloh! It’s a realistic slap in the face, wake-up call, OMG what did I get myself into post! I love it. I needed it too! I know when I first started a couple years ago, I had some way off base illusions about how the writing career worked. My biggest problem to date isn’t my own issues, though those are big ones, but it’s getting my family and other people in my life to realize this is a job, as important a job as any other job. If it doesn’t get done, it adversely affects not only me but them as well and that just because I’m working at home, doesn’t mean it’s a free for all… for mom to drive all over creation or for the kids to fill the house with other kids or for the husband to want me to call here, here and here, oh and can you run this errand and go do this, etc…

    Now, about those projects that are due like, yesterday… I’m off to write!


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