Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I'm Trying To Be Professional over Here

I'm not a professional writer. No one pays me to do it yet, so I, in my opinion, can't use that title yet. But I want to be a professional writer someday. That's my goal. And I firmly believe that in order to make that happen, I have to act like I'm already there. Dress for the job you want, as it were. I have to treat my career now with the respect I want it to someday garner.

Long-Suffering Husband and I had a lot of talks about ways to make this work and the kinds of support I would need. There are certain things about our life and family dynamic that neither of us is willing to sacrifice, so it's not like I could just wake up one day, declare myself a writer, and then lock myself in a room with a typewriter and a bottle of whiskey.

I make myself get out of bed at ouch o'clock in the morning to write so I can get, hopefully, get my words for the day down before the kids wake up. And he treats it like I've left the building, meaning he minds the kids if they need something during that time and he does his best not to distract me, even though I'm sitting just across the room.

Still, while Long-Suffering Husband understands that I consider this to be my second job, it's difficult to get others on the same page. I find that much of the time I have to hide a lot about how hard this is, which is very frustrating. (I suspect bottling up all that frustration is why I end up whining here on the blog so often.) Because if, for example, I complain about how tired I am, and I get told I should just give up the writing thing and sleep until the kids get up, instead of waking up so early in the morning. Maybe I could come back to it once they're in college.

If I worked outside my home, if I had a job as. . .  an early morning barista at Starbucks or something instead, I suspect I wouldn't get this kind of crap. I hear similar things from other people who work from home. (I can, happily, complain to those friends about being tired. Because they get it.)Those of us who try to make our livings from our living rooms just don't make much sense to people with "regular" jobs.

It probably also doesn't help that I'm not making any money at writing yet. It's all theoretical at this point, which is even harder for the "regular job" folks to understand. (And I've got a double whammy in that department, since my day job--being a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers--also doesn't come with a paycheck or much in the respect department either. But that's another topic for a different blog.)

I've taken to likening my writing career to starting a business manufacturing custom rocking chairs.

No one wakes up one morning and opens an instantly successful rocking chair manufacturing business. They have to first spend a lot of time learning how to make a proper rocking chair, experimenting with different models and materials, studying and incorporating the techniques of other craftsmen, learning how to use different kinds of tools, etc. And then, once they've gotten themselves to the point where they have a rocking chair they think they can sell, they have to invest even more time finding people to buy said chair or stores to sell them on their behalf. All that and more has to happen before they can actually make any money as a professional rocking chair manufacturer.

All this to say nothing of the work they'll have to put in to overcome the stigma that results from big name retailers who sell cheap, ready-to-assemble furniture, who are trying to convince the world that everyone with an Allen wrench and access to an IKEA can build a rocking chair, but that's a whole different level of this metaphor.

I'm not going to be making big money in rocking chair sales any time soon. I'm still learning how to make my rocking chairs, and it'll probably be a few years before I have one that won't collapse as soon as someone tries to sit in it. But that doesn't mean I can just keep spare rocking chair parts in my garage and hope they'll put themselves together while I'm busy doing something else, or that I should give up the whole idea and move on to something more. . .  conventional.

All it means is that I have to devote serious time and effort to my craft on a regular basis if I ever expect to make any progress. It means I have to take it seriously, and invest my time and energy as wisely as I can, because there's never enough of either and life just keeps rolling right along whether I want it to or not.

Which is why I get ticked off when I'm stressing a deadline and someone dismisses it with something like, "well, it's not a real deadline anyway; it's not like it matters." It matters. Even if it doesn't matter to anyone else right now, even if it never matters to anyone else, it matters to me. That makes it real.

What about you, readers and reader-bots? Do you have this same trouble? How do you handle it?


  1. I'm going to try this again!

    I totally relate to this, and I think the people who say your deadlines aren't real are the ones who say things like "when I have time I'd like to write a book, too." As if time is something that's just going to magically happen! I don't know how to make them get it, and I don't think it's really possible. But I do think you're awesome for staying with it! Thank goodness for supportive spouses!

  2. It probably isn't possible to make them get it; our native languages are just too different for truly effective communication. I think that, more than anything else, is what makes it so frustrating.

    And, yes, thank goodness for supportive spouses! :-)