Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Paid Hobbyist

Since all the cool kids are doing it and I'm one to fall in line with the zeitgeist, I'm going to respond to this blog post by an author I've never heard of. (And why does that ALWAYS seem to be the case when it comes to stuff like this?) According to Ms. Morton, if you don't score an 80 or better on this little quiz, you aren't a professional author, shouldn't ever consider yourself a professional author and that you are just wasting your time on trying to be a professional author.

Now, before we get the the quiz, I need to put up this qualifier: I am an as yet published author still struggling to make a name for himself. So on to the quiz, here are Ms. Morton's questions:

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

Yes, but not for that reason.

My home and work places are messy because I'm lazy and I don't like cleaning, not because I'm too busy writing. I spent a good part of today actually attempting to clean up my house a bit(and failing miserably at it). My classroom is usually disorganized because I'm busy during my free periods grading or planning or making copies or attending meetings, so there's that.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

Uhm, no....sort of.

I don't have friends.

Okay, that's harsh. I have friends, it's just that, generally speaking, I don't LIKE going out as much as I used to. I'm sure that there's some psychological reason for this self imposed exile. It could be that I just love being around my kids a lot too. And I often rue the time I spent screwing around when I was younger going out. But this makes me think of Patrick Rothfuss's quote about writing: "Sitting at home all the time reading and writing is not awful, but go hiking, have disastrous relationships, go to the sort of parties that people end up kissing each other.. Because you know, those are useful experiences. They will lead to you being a more experienced human being, and the more you experience in life, the more you have to draw from in your writing."

But even now, I won't turn down some time with friends just to get some writing done...that may change when I get a real deadline.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?


I keep the TV on almost all the time when I write. I'm a background noise kind of guy, so it's usually something inane. I've written hundreds of pages with The Food Network on in the background. Seriously, there is something about The Food Network and writing that just go together. If not The Food Network, there is probably a game on in that background. The few times when I do turn the tv off, music's playing. 

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?


Here would be my place to rant about people who really don't want to hear what is wrong with their writing....but I don't want to do that today.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites (either research or networking potential)?


Vacations are vacations. Get aways. That doesn't mean that I won't work during one. I bring my writer's notebook everywhere. My last major vacation was to Disney World a few years ago and I had my notebook with me. I was still unagented at the time and was thinking about scrapping the project to prep another MS for seeking out an agent. I was in line to take the safari at Animal Kingdom when my phone buzzed with an email. It was from my present agent asking if I'd done an outline he requested. I went home from the park that night and scribbled in my writers notebook like a maniac to get moving, but it wasn't part of a writing opportunity.

I've always wanted to attend a con, but it's not in my immediate future. I'd rather spend time with my family.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No, sort of. (See the post about friends above.)

A lot of my friends are writers and teachers, so we naturally talk about writing all the time. I'm sort of the "writer guy" at school, so I'm always talking about writing.

But quite frankly, I'd rather talk to my friends about other things: something we read, saw on TV, a big game, something we ate, etc.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?


Providing for my family is my number one priority, bar none. I'm a teacher with a pretty stable job that I won't be leaving for "my writing." I make other sacrifices for my writing (sleep mostly). Providing for my family is a non-negotiable. Natalie, Cooper and Kim are more important than my writing.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

What? I'm not sure what she means by this question. Does she work for the people that write out state assessments?

If seems like she's repeating question 7...and you know my answer to moving on.

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Another terrible question, since I answered no to so many of those, then my answer here is no.

But I've been writing as long as I can remember.

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?


What kind of a writer is she? This question makes no sense. At all. In the least. Is she asking me if I'm ever going to give up my dream? Again, I'm convinced she has a day job with Pearson writing state exams.

I write. I am a writer. I will always be a writer. My ambition is for my books to be as big as George RR Martin. Am I ever going to achieve that level? Highly, highly doubtful. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop writing. So I guess my answer is yes.

So, I wasn't even close. Now, to be fair other authors fared worse than I did. Neil Gaiman pretty much said he was 0 for 10. Awesome.

I'm not quite sure what was the purpose of Ms. Morton's post. Many others have written extensively on this and I'm not going to rehash what they've written, but I have some questions. Was it some sense of superiority to writers that do any of the things on the list above? What lesson is to be learned? I'm going to be honest, if that's the life of a writer that Ms. Morton lives (and from what I can tell she's maybe slightly successful which makes her considerably more successful than me right now), then I don't know if that's the life I want to live. Seriously. Her life sounds incredibly dull. Sorry.

I'm okay with her calling me a hobbyist, because, to be honest, that's what writing is. I often tell my wife this if she scoffs at me for "writing." At best, writing will more than likely be a part time career for me. (I know, I know, doesn't this become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy and I'm setting myself up to fail...but again, look back at my answer for question 7.) For many reasons, I can't imagine a day where I am not teaching. (Okay, that's a little bit of a stretch of the truth, because I could, but I genuinely do love teaching.) Could writing have been a full time career for me? I'm sure in some quantum universe I am a writer...actually in many of them I'm sure I am a full time writer. But in this universe, I am not.

For now, I just want to be a paid hobbyist, at least by Ms. Morton's standards.

1 comment:

Nora said...

I hate it when people try to tell others that they should or shouldn't be writers. Unless you are an agent or someone whose advice has actively been sought, just stfu. At best, you will be ignored. At worst, you could severely damage someone's self esteem and perhaps ruin the chance to read something beautiful that they could have written.

Anyway. That's my soapbox about the whole "should" of being a writer.