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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Writing? What Constitutes Work for You?

Time and again, we hear wails from writers complaining that writing is such hard work. They moan
about how difficult it all is, so that one is forced to wonder why they do it. Coal mining is hard work, labouring is hard work, working a 70 hour shift as a junior doctor in a hospital is hard work. Writing isn’t, or shouldn’t be, hard work.

No one is forced to write: it’s a personal choice, a selection of a lifestyle. Anyone who becomes a writer in the expectation of making easy money is a fool. Writing fiction is not a way to guarantee a worthwhile income. The average English novel makes around £2000.00 for the writer: that’s for an investment of maybe two years work (and, included in that average is the income made by authors such as JK Rowling. Do the math, as they say). Anyone entering the field without awareness of the realities is either naive or stupid. Few freelancers, writing articles, make a very good living, though some make a reasonable amount. Probably the only way to be sure of a constant income from writing is to become a journalist working on a regularly published journal. Everything else is speculation.

For me, writing is not work. It’s a joy, a journey through my imagination to lands and lives I invent. This isn’t work, this is delight. Editing isn’t work; not for me. I love the chase for the perfect word or phrase. I love the discovery of new vocabulary to replace repetitions, I love the search for new ways to say things. Research isn’t work: it’s an adventure, a trip to new experiences and knowledge.

So, what is work for me, when it comes to the world of writing fiction? Selling. Marketing. Building a platform. I’ve worked as a salesman more than once during my varied career and it was never a role that sat easily with me. We look at life through our own eyes, and tend to expect that people are pretty much like us. I’m that guy who never wants to be advised on what to buy, who doesn’t want to be approached by a shop assistant handing out advice. If I want something, I do some research and buy what appears to be best for my needs. I expect others to be similar, so the idea of actively selling seems either a waste of time or a con trick. Surely people know what they want and where they can obtain it? Marketing is similar, in that it’s a means to persuade people to be interested in something they may otherwise not consider.

I hear the screams of protest. I hear the denials. Yes, I know that the world of books is a tough one with competition that’s often far from fair. I understand that, if I want to sell my books, I have to somehow get them to the attention of readers. In so doing, I have to compete and become involved in league tables, press releases, advertising, promotion, engagement with potential readers, and a slough of other activities all designed to take me away from what I think I do best; writing.

So, I have a choice. I can spend most of my time and effort engaged in activity designed to bring my work to the attention of others; something I’ve been doing with minimal success for the past year or more. Or I can write, publish books, and hope that readers will appreciate those works, spread the word and allow me to build a readership that enables my books to be read by more and more people. My choice should depend on what I do best and what I most love. Writing. So, that is what, from now, I will be doing. If I sell few books as a result of taking this approach, so be it: it’ll be no change from the current situation. Except that I’ll be actively enjoying my time writing instead of finding the task of marketing and selling a drudgery I can barely abide.

I’ve spent the last three days in doing the final editing of book one of a fantasy trilogy. Much of that time has been a re-reading of the book, following the editing, so that I have it fresh in my mind. I’ll spend the next few days in doing the same for book two, already written and edited. Then I can start to write book three, which has been slowly bubbling away in the back of my mind during the last few months. This is what I love to do. Write.

This means I won’t always be free to do these spots, which were once regular. I’ll certainly try to produce a post each week, simply because this is a form of writing I enjoy and find relatively easy to do. It’s also a necessary break from the more imaginative creative writing involved in making up a story. But it isn’t work. Not for me. It’s pleasure, enjoyment, fulfilment.

So. When it comes to the world of writing, what constitutes work for you and why do you do it? Let us all know. Just place a comment here and share your thoughts. You might help some other poor beleaguered writer along the way.

 Here are a few quotes on work from well know writers:

Work is the curse of the drinking classes. Oscar Wilde.
Work is a necessary evil to be avoided. Mark Twain.
Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else. George Halas.
Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. Mark Twain.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. Stephen King.
I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process. Vincent Van Gogh.
Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time. Pablo Picasso.
The more I want to get something done, the less I call it work. Richard Bach.
If you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work. Khalil Gibran.

I think you’ll spot those with which I agree. More than anything else, I hope you’ll find ways to enjoy this wonderful craft we call writing.
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