In last week’s blog, we addressed the entertainment half of entertainment business. I believe the first half of this word is what creates such a mental stumbling block for many writers just as the hospitality half of hospitality business creates problems for new restaurateurs. Watch any episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares that involves a family restaurant, and I guarantee you ample footage of friends and family loafing off, taking money from the till, eating non-stop, and helping themselves to endless drinks at the bar. All the while Mom, Dad or whoever is on the edge of suffering a stress-induced heart attack. I don’t believe these individuals sit up all night thinking of ways to submarine Mom and Dad’s efforts, but I do believe they are lulled into this false mystique that the restaurant somehow has more to do with relaxing and having a good time than it does with running a successful business.
I have seen the exact same thing happen time and time again with writers. We love to write. We would do it all day and night and for free if we could think of a way to live off air. And since we enjoy it, and it is our passion, we fall into an insidious habit that has the power to sabotage even the smallest of goals. We often scope-lock on the entertainment and forget or undervalue the business half of the word. We view our writing as a hobby or a selfish indulgence instead of what it is…a business.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard something to the effect of, “Well, I write in the evenings when I get home from my real job.” “Oh, my goal is to be published so one day I can quit my real job.” “I have to keep a real job so I can write.” Every time I hear that I could scream. Writing is a real job. In fact, it is at the very least a second job. And it may one day become a full-time job. But it is always, always, always a REAL job. And the strange part is we teach others to treat us in ways that only feed our guilt. I will have people ask me, “So what do you do for a living?” And when I tell them I’m a writer, I usually get, “No, I mean, what is your real job?”
Yet, we’ve trained them, haven’t we?
As an example, my best friend has written eight novels. None of them have yet been published, but the persistence and willingness to learn on his part is tremendous, a testament to anyone wanting to survive in publishing. Yet, just recently (when I made the real job misnomer my personal hobby horse) I noted that whenever he introduced himself, he always told people he was a “retired insurance salesman.” Now I must ask, is that a mindset that can birth a published author? Eight failed attempts will tell you…likely not.
And yet aren’t we doing the same thing when we refer to our writing as anything less than our second career? Warrior Writer is designed to teach us how to think like authors, but I would propose that a critical step to becoming a professional author is defining ourselves as such. Professionals running a business set boundaries with family and time. They are self-disciplined. They dedicate long hours of hard work and sacrifice into their craft. They take business classes and make time to understand things like marketing and platform. They save receipts, hire accountants, set projections, and have clear and defined goals.
Yet how many writers are still begging for an hour of quiet time in the evening to write?
Writers are some of the kindest, gentlest, most amazing souls to be found. There is something to be said for the individual who sacrifices time, money, sleep, possessions all for a need to entertain other human beings, to leave the world a better, more enriched, more informed place. But one large hurdle for many writers is recognizing what a large contribution we make to the human condition. Writing is not a hobby, it is a necessity. Our entire civilization rests on the written word. Last I checked, everything on the Internet was…um, written. Instructions, menus, manuals, training, advertisement, marketing, soap jingles, beer commercials, magazine articles…all began with a WRITER.
Fiction is just as vital. What do we humans do on weekends? We go to movies, we read, we watch television, we play video games—all of which require WRITERS. Humans require entertainment to remain sane. Stories instruct, inspire, and fuel our hope and imagination. Without that we die, or go crazy, or go crazy then die. We risk losing our humanity. The writer’s contribution is more than valuable, it preserves and grows the human condition. Tyrants burn the books first for a reason.
With this said, if our contribution is valuable, then so is our profession. Warrior Writer is a holistic approach to being an author. Writers are not one-dimensional beings. We are each fueled and foiled differently. Warrior Writer is more than a set of tools for success, it is a total shift how we define our goals, our dreams and, ultimately ourselves.
For more information on Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer Workshops, go to www.bobmayer.org.
I’ve got 39 books published, have been making a living at it for 20 years and still have trouble identifying myself when people ask what I do for a living. Elizabeth George tells people she’s a ‘novelist’. I’ve been posting that Warrior Writers teaches writers how to become authors. I think some people have taken umbrage at that. They feel anyone who writes something is an ‘author’. I don’t know. I think it’s a mindset. There is a lot of debate over the merits of getting published. I remember years ago an article in the Nashville people the title of which was: “Getting Published Is No Real Sign of Merit”. Yes, or course, there is luck involved. But it is a high bar and luck goes to those who work hard, actually produce a manuscript, market it, sell it, promote it, all while writing their next manuscript. And authors who survive in this business are business savvy.
I’ve known excellent doctors and lawyers who, while great at that art, fail in their business and go bankrupt.
In Warrior Writer I focus on both the art and the business and I have found that what cripples you in one area, can sometimes cripple you in the other. One comment after the last workshop was that it was a bit like group therapy.
I’ve applied the tenets of Writer Warrior once more to myself and in the last couple of days changed some very important things in my writing and in my life. Because I am aligning my goals to achieve my strategic goal.
This is going to sound crazy (yeah, I know) but I get the same reaction when I tell people I’m an author/writer as I do when I say I’m a full-time mom or when I used to be a full-time dance teacher. “Oh, what a fun hobby.” Um, mothering is a hobby? Ok, so they didn’t say that, but I did get the, “Oh, well, that’s not a real job”.
For the longest time, I would come up with creative ways of describing myself. Now I just say I’m an author and smile.
Unfortunately, most people don’t count things as a “job” unless you get paid for it. I’m a stay at home mom and an (unpublished) writer. So, I guess to the world I’m doubly unemployed! 🙂
That’s true, and hard to change their attitude. But I find we often do and say subtle things that reinforce those opinions, and those habits we can change. We have to first view ourselves as professionals if we hope for others to follow suit. And if they don’t think being a mom is a full-time job, then they won’t mind you delegating a couple of hours of what you normally do in order to write, :D. Keep up the good work!