Wednesday, October 7, 2020

With three months to go in 2020 the IWSG asks us what a working writer looks like.

Today being October 7th means that there are only 12 or so weeks left before the end of the year. Huzzah! As you can tell, I'm really looking forward to 2021, mostly because I want to leave the dumpster fire that is 2020 in the past. This has been a difficult year for too many reasons. However, I'm optimistic that it can only get better from here. And being the first Wednesday of the month, October 7th just also happens to be Insecure Writer's Support Group day. This is the day when all us writers out here get to express something about writing that we maybe feel insecure about, or to answer the monthly question that appears on the IWSG blog located HERE (consequently where you can also sign up).

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!
October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

At this point in my personal story arc, I see myself as a hobbyist. This means that I pay all of my bills through my main job, which is working for the State of Utah. And this in turn affords me the ability to craft stories or to make books and write things that are essentially for an audience of me and anyone who is like me (it's frightening, but there are quite a few people out there who are like yours truly). So it's not entirely a miniscule market. However, there aren't enough people who are like me to ever make a living from as I'm into a few niche and unique things (like nearly everyone else). And there's nothing wrong with that.

My writing journey has taught me a lot about myself, about what I like, what I dislike, and it has been a great vehicle through which I discovered who I was as a person. It definitely taught me to respect the writing process, and it taught me how difficult an endeavor it is to actually finish a story. Knowing exactly what I wanted from life (and who I was as a person) enabled me to set healthy boundaries with folks both in my family and in my friendship circle. Saying things like, "You know, I'm going to say no to that," has pissed off family and friends. I had to learn that this isn't on me. I'm not responsible for how other people feel when I reject them with a boundary. But, it was the start of healthy conversations in which I wished them well on what they wanted to do, but that I had my own things I wanted to do too that are more important. In other words, I absolutely was not going to people please so that I could get their approval. There are powerful narcissists in my family, and putting a stop to the people-pleasing was and continues to be challenging. However, it makes my life better, and the air is sweeter to breathe.

You might ask: how exactly did writing help you overcome people pleasing? Well, it has to do with finding your audience. Some authors will write to try and please an audience. I decided a while ago that I was no longer going to do that. Instead, I was going to be happy about writing things for people like me, and I wasn't going to care if others (who are not in that audience) hated and did not support my work. If you think about it, the whole concept of a review is to people please. If you get a bad review, it means that you did not please a person, and the entirety of the bad review, is them admonishing you for not catering to what they like. I'm so done with that, so I don't care if I get bad reviews.

Writing a book is kind of like living in a house. Most people like the neighborhoods with the HOA's that have the manicured front lawns and the houses that all have the tree out front in the same place and where none of the houses look all that different from the next. That's okay. I'm just the person whose house in this fictional scenario is painted navy blue and white, has too many flowers in the front lawn, who doesn't spray for insects, and who grows tons of vegetables and has drip lines everywhere. I'm that house that sticks out like a sore thumb. Where the walls inside are painted yellow and white or blue and white, and where appliances look like Easter eggs because they are bright and colorful. I'm the house that people accuse of bringing down their home values because its weird and eclectic. But that's okay, you just need to set healthy boundaries and tell people, "If you don't like it...move along. You can find people who are more like you. I don't need to conform to your standards."

So now I'll answer the question: what does a working writer look like to you? A working writer is someone who has to work to support themselves so they can afford to write what they want to write. It doesn't matter if they are a hobbyist or incredibly serious. In both situations, the audience they sell to is not yet (or maybe never will be) large enough to support them. And with the rising cost of living, especially in the United States, I don't see how writing will ever be enough to support anyone unless you can sell enough books to make six figures a year. It just costs too dang much to live (and to retire) in this country. A lot of that is (of course) housing. I know the middle class houses around here (in SLC) cost around half a million for a third acre plot. How does anyone make enough to afford a 30-year mortgage for half a million? Answer: they don't, and they end up renting for the rest of their lives.

Anyway, to quote Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say about that."


  1. Well said. I don't worry about bad reviews - my book just wasn't for that person.
    Like the idea of boundaries. We have to set those.

  2. If you're not counting on book sales as part of your income then you really don't need to worry about reviews. But even when I didn't it still annoyed me to get a bad review because the reason--if there was one--was usually something moronic. Most of the time that the reader missed something that was often obvious.

  3. I made a living as a copywriter for many years. The jobs were creative and satisfying, but never as fulfilling a writing a novel and getting it published. Though thankfully I've not gotten any bad reviews.

  4. Boundaries are a good thing. And I think you'll find that your audience is wider than you think, but to find them requires more marketing than you're willing to put in. Which is a healthy boundary, actually.

  5. Wait, is the “SLC” in SLC Punk a reference to the city? I haven’t seen it. You just made me think about that. Interesting.

  6. I hate HOAs and the whole concept of HOAs, and, now, specifically, I hate my own HOA.

    I would like to be with you on the 2021 train, but, then, 2019 was pretty bad, too, and everyone kept waiting for it to be over so that we could get on to 2020 because, surely it was going to be better.
    Right now, I just feel like I'm holding my breath waiting for this stupid election.

  7. I learned a lot about myself through writing my characters also. Not every book will please everyone. All you can do is write the story as you see it.

    I'm hoping 2021 is better than 2020, but like Andrew said, there is no guarantee for a new year. The cost of living keeps rising, and fewer and fewer people are employed. Our country is in a crisis right now.