First gut reaction to this? "But that's your job. They do it to pay you. Why does that matter?"
Writing is a job too.
People generally don't treat writing like a job. They treat it like a hobby or a time-consuming and often annoying pass-time. They don't acknowledge that many writers have gone through years of training, have had years of practice, and years of reading, in order to improve their craft. Heck, most people don't even notice that there is craft involved in writing!
How many times have you, as a writer, been told by someone else, a non-writer, that they want to write a book one day? Or, how many times has that same person, or any number of others like them, commented that that's nice, what's your real job? Or that they are trying to write a bestseller in their spare time, without any past practice or training, or real want to be an actual author? The last time this happened, I asked the person what they did for a living, and when she said she was a lawyer, I said that my favorite hobby was to *insert x kind of court case stuff here* in my spare time.
That shut her up real quick.
But, all in all, that was rude. I'll be the first to admit it. The comments which brush off writing as an actual profession were really starting to drive me batty, I was at the boiling point, and BOOM. Explosion. I'm sure if that woman sees me in the future, she'll quickly run the other direction. That's not exactly what I wanted.
As much as I want to, I'm not going to be able to change the entire world's perception of writers. I wish. Maybe I will change a few here and there, people I know, who know me, and realize just how much hard work and dedication it has taken me to get where I am now.
So, what's the solution?
I am changing things on my end. No, I'm not acting like writing is a hobby, I'm not going to only novel in my spare time without putting any attention to the improvement of my craft. Far from it!
I'm going to clock in to work.
In a past blog, I mentioned that I had started a productivity spreadsheet, which was much like my accountability book... on steroids. Here is the breakdown of everything I list, and why:
- Date: Well, it's good to know what day the writing was done on!
- Project Name: Being that I have a few different projects and different levels of completion, I list this. However, if you want to keep separate sheets for separate projects, that's fine too!
- Location of Writing: This is where I list my writing environment, which can be very important! Some places are naturally noisy, some have no wireless internet, and yet others are entirely too quiet! It's good to know where I did my writing, so I can see any trends in my output.
- Time I'm Writing: This is an actually x:xx p.m - x:xx pm list. I only clock time where I am actually grinding my fingers against the keyboard. If I have to go refill my coffee cup, I'll clock out. If I get distracted by lolcats, I'll clock out. This is working time only!
- Starting/Ending Wordcount: This is not necessary for all lists, but I have it, because I am clocking editing time as well as writing time, and with editing, my wordcount might go down a little.
- Total Word Gain: When I finish a stint of writing, I take the ending wordcount and subtract the starting wordcount from it to see what my total gain was. This is necessary, as there is generally a correlation between this number, the location, the time of day, and the other factors I have yet to list.
- Average Words Per Hour: Okay, again, this one isn't absolutely necessary, but I do it anyway, so I can look at averages for different locations. Certain locations and writing conditions yield a higher average, which is one of the things I look at.
- Music: I'm one of those writers who listens to music, though I don't always have that luxury while writing. This section is where I note if I am listening to music, if it is an abnormal music situation (i.e. listening to music in only one ear, because I am at work), and what song or playlist I am listening to. I've noticed that while some songs set a mood really well, they are distracting, and should be used at a bare minimum.
- Noise Level: Some places are noisy. Some are too quiet. This is where I note it. It really does matter for my writing, I've found. Super noisy areas, even with headphones, will generally only yield 100 to 250 words in a fifteen minute stint. Moderately quiet areas will yield anywhere from 300 to 800 words in fifteen. In a strange twist, silent areas, even with me listening to music, only yield between 200 and 400 words.
By using this spreadsheet, I am not only tracking my productivity and collecting useful data regarding my writing habits, but clocking in to work. This is my punch card. Sadly, I don't get paid for my efforts (yet), but it makes writing as a career feel all the more real. It helps me keep my head in the game. And when people say "oh, I write in my spare time, too," I can just smile, nod, and keep my cool, because I know this is more than a hobby.
~Tiffany "Kysis" Tackett