by J.F. Posthumus
Well, why aren’t you? I know, that may seem a blunt and potentially confrontational question to respond with, but hear me out. So far, there have been only two real reasons people give that sigh and wish response. Dress the reasons up any way you damned well please, but when you get to the heart of it, there are only two reasons: The person doesn’t consider writing a “real” job, or she/he wishes that they were doing something creative for employment.
Let’s address that first one.
What constitutes the delusion that writing novels, manuscripts, shorts, whatever, isn’t a “real” job? I’m sure many of you have asked this question, and I’d love to hear what replies you’ve garnered. The ones I hear the most often center around the “lack” of a set schedule, not having to leave home, or that no real work is implied. Granted, unless you are hefting around a really old laptop or carry several books, notepad, sticky notes, pencils, etc in a large carry bag, there isn’t a challenging physical aspect to being a writer. We aren’t doing work that approximates the person unloading a truck, moving a patient, or most construction jobs. What a writer does is specialized. So we have more in common with the construction foreman than the guy holding the sign in traffic, or the guy shoveling gravel. Like the foreman, we have to decide how everything is going to work, what jobs everyone under us are going to take. We have to see the big picture as well as the individual effort.
Lack of a set schedule is one that I love to laugh at. What most people who gravitate towards that delusion have in common is failing to understand how much work goes into writing. As a writer, you might only write for an hour in a day, but you could just as easily write for eighteen hours in a single day. The amount of time spent writing a novel doesn’t vary buy so much; it can be spread out more than a set schedule of nine to five, Monday through Friday. But a writer can choose to do that. If the writer has a deadline (editing!!!) then it’s going to be every minute you can squeeze out of every day until it’s done.
That nurse you’re talking to might sigh and say she/he would love to not work that eight or ten hour shift and work in pajamas… but that nurse isn’t taking the work home. They might get a phone call after they leave, but they aren’t doing the job in between cleaning the house, taking care of kids, and they can go to sleep. A writer might, and does, spend all day sneaking in more writing, editing, plotting, or responding to communications well past their bedtime, and long after the nurse has stopped thinking about the day’s work. Further, a writer has to deal with edits, and if you want to get enough people to buy your work to make writing your only paid job, you have to travel, sell, interact with the public, and a score of other things that might make you wonder how celebrities aren't all crazy.
What we do is work, and it’s not for everybody. Not by a long stretch. Writing something over 80,000 words that keeps a reader’s attention is a tall order. Plenty of people could write that many words given enough time, but ask anyone who’s written an instruction manual… keeping the reader engaged is a monumental task. If you’re responsible for creating and directing every single aspect of a world- that is work that most people don’t want to deal with. We might have more in common with the President of the United States (deal with a few readers who think they know how your characters are supposed to act and what their “lives” should entail, you just might have some sympathy for the Commander-in-Chief) than the old classmate who’s going to retire from the computer tech job they have, but it doesn’t mean we writers aren’t working our butts off.
J.F. Posthumus was that quiet kid that sat up front in class. You know; the one that had most of the answers that the teachers were looking for, but didn’t socialize very well. Living through those awkward school years, she poured herself into a love of computers, video games, world- building writing and putting her own creations through difficulties. J.F. later discovered graphic art, information technology, and how to actually mingle with others. She lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia with her co-writing husband, who makes her exotic foods and mixed drinks, and their three kids.