Choose Your Pain—Hobbyist vs. Professional Author

You know you’re jealous, LOL.

This blog focuses mainly on those writers who desire to make a living writing fiction. Last post, The Single Best Way to Become a Mega-Author garnered an interesting comment, though not an unusual one.

Anytime I write one of my posts regarding success or sales or being a best-seller, inevitably I get the “What about just enjoying writing?” comment.

And the observation is a valid one, though one I don’t always think about because, to me, writing never feels like work, though in truth, it is REALLY hard work. I work longer and harder now than I ever did in my years in sales.

It just never seems that way.

Hobbyist Versus Pro

This blog, at least when we are referring to craft, applies to anyone who wants to write good stories. The hobbyist, however, is different. This person is not creating a commodity.

The work produced is solely for the personal enjoyment of the creator and if it fulfills that purpose, it really doesn’t matter if there is no plot, 42 different POVs and so much purple prose one might choke on all the metaphors.

Yet, the second we want to command time and money from another person to read our work, our job description changes. Sure at home we might have a habit of drowning a hamburger in weird condiments, but if we were serving that to others (I.e. our restaurant)? We’d need to be mindful that maybe other people don’t want Nutella on a burger (yes, people eat that, I googled it).

Additionally someone who whips off fan fiction or stories in their free time is not beholden to the business end of what we do. They don’t need to know about branding or social media or marketing or newsletters. Since this blog caters to those who wish to make money at this? All of that is vital.

Go Big or GO HOME

Now I will admit that I have big, okay, mega dreams. I am not Type A, rather Type A+ because I did the extra credit assignments.


In my mind if I shoot for the stars I might just hit the moon. I always aim big because I imagine that if I adopt the habits of a mega-author that can only turn out well. This means I read tons of books, I study, I inhale craft books and blogs.

I study other authors and I write and write and write. I write every day. I adopt good habits and self-discipline and in some way—even if I fall short of every being Nora Roberts—it’s still a pretty solid formula to do well at my craft and business.

Additionally, notice how much of my hard work incorporates things I already enjoy (ergo WHY I left sales and became a writer). As a writer, I should enjoy reading and watching movies and studying story. I should enjoy writing and revising and getting better and if I don’t? Houston, we have a problem.

Yet, your dreams are your dreams and not everyone wants to break records or re-imagine entire genres. Not everyone has the want or ability to write four books a year.

So…don’t 😀 .

Take what applies and scale the rest. Only YOU know your goals and dreams.

But About ENJOYING Writing

Image courtesy of Frank Selmo via Flickr Creative Commons

As I mentioned earlier, most of what we do as professional authors should already be enjoyable. Not to be a b%$#, but if you hate reading and never read? I don’t want to read your books. As wise woman once said…

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I know that many writers groan and mention social media. Again, if social media is a chore, perhaps what is flawed is the approach not the medium. Social media done the way I teach it at least, should be very much in tune with the creative personality.

I left sales (actually ran away screaming) so when I wrote a social media book for authors, I deliberately crafted an approach that harnessed the creative personality.

It is your creativity and imagination that sells books, not acting like an Amway rep genetically crossed with a Jehovah’s Witness. Additionally, if your social media is leaving no TIME left for the most important aspect of the job—writing MORE BOOKS—then it is flawed. If you’re hating your social media, treat yourself to a copy of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World 😉 .

But moving on…

Two Truths About Enjoyment

#1 Choose Your Pain

Life is pain. Yeah I am just a bundle of sunshine, but seriously, it is. Every aspect of life has pain. For instance, there is the pain of having children. My house is messy all the time. I cannot sit down without nearly ending up with a Hot Wheels suppository *checks couch before plopping down*. LEGOS? O….M…G.

Instead of having frou frou soaps, you know, like this…

Image via Ross Elliot at Flikr Creative Commons

I use THIS….

Though admittedly, I do prefer Coconut Force over the Hyperspace Apple.

I have to stop my writing to answer questions like, “Can a porcupine kill you?” or “How long can you go without peeing before you die?” or “How many people die in a day?”

****Yes, Spawn is morbid. He’s a born writer.

Before being a mother, I can honestly say no one asked me these things. I could eat without having to guard my French fries prison style, holding my fork like a shiv.

But, before I was a mother, though I had an immaculate home and could take off traveling any time I wanted…I was lonely. And all in all the pain of having Spawn is light years better than the pain of NOT having him.

Same with writing. I could go get a “real job” where I clocked in and clocked out and had a regular paycheck and benefits but to me? I prefer MY pain. I prefer the pain of blogging and branding and editing and marketing and spreadsheets to the little death of every day in a cube farm. The pain of NOT writing is far worse than the pain of the business of writing.

So whenever we choose to do ANYTHING regarding writing, we simply need to choose our pain. And know there will always be SOME pain. We can’t choose ANY profession that is ALL kittens and unicorns.

#2 Being GOOD is WAY More Enjoyable than SUCKING

When I was six I wanted to learn to play the guitar. My grandparents—not really thinking this through—bought me a guitar, but then provided no lessons. I don’t know what my six-year-old brain was thinking….ok, I lie. I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that somehow when I put my fingers on the strings that it magically would sound like all those Dolly Parton songs I loved.

Yeah no.

And don’t get me wrong, I belted out plenty of bad renditions of Jolene (MY POOR PARENTS! Though I imagine any six year old begging a mistress not to take her man is amusing at some level) eventually I grew bored. The guitar then became a light saber and eventually was forgotten.

Because I wasn’t any GOOD, it lost its luster and I could never be as adorable as THIS…

Same with writing in many ways. Sure in the beginning there is the creative abandon of words flowing onto the page and as a pro, it would be nice to have that wild carefree spirit of the blissfully ignorant. But there comes a point that one gets tired of not being able to finish. Of coming up with a great idea for a story and it petering out.

Now? After years and years and YEARS of study and practice? I LOVE WRITING MORE THAN EVER!!!! Why? Because I can finish and when I finish, it is actually GOOD!

Seriously, if you are struggling to finish, invest $35 and two hours and take my Plotting for Dummies (listed below). Even if you never sell books, wouldn’t it be nice to FINISH them?

Getting good at the business is rewarding because selling lots of books…

Wait for it….

Is way more fun than selling NO BOOKS. If you need help, I have super successful best-selling author Jack Patterson who’s making a KILLING off his newsletter teaching a WANA class on how to create a newsletter that actually SELLS books.

So I challenge anyone who reads this blog, even if you don’t ever want to sell books or break records…LEARN YOUR CRAFT. Even if you never sell anything, it will make the hobby so much more enjoyable. And for those who want to sell books? Yeah learning the craft is—or should be—a given.

In the end, if you are not enjoying writing? Either suck it up and admit it is the pain you’ve chosen or reexamine and make sure you’ve chosen the right pain. Maybe we are setting our bar too low and we aren’t happy because we need the challenge of trying to be a mega-author. Maybe we are trying to be a mega-author and it’s just no fun and we’d do better writing novellas or for fun or for just side money.

And remember GOALS CHANGE. My goal was to be a mega-author but the last four years with 12 deaths in the family and all kinds of personal/family troubles, I would (did) make myself sick. I had to ramp it down. Now? Ramping it back up. That is what is cool about goals. We can CHANGE them 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Have you found that NOT sucking is way more fun than sucking? Are you tired of sucking? What kind of pain do you enjoy? Hell you are writers, so by definition—> masochists. So I KNOW you dig pain 😀 .

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce March’s Winner Next Post.  I was supposed to do it this post, but I lied. I am still catching up from the storm drama.


Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

Be a Better Hooker (How to Write a Compelling Newsletter)

April 29th $45

In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.

With a mailing list of over 15K subscribers, mystery/thriller author Jack Patterson will share some of his tips that will spice up your newsletter and get your subscribers opening it up every time you send one out.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 April 27th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 April 7th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 April 13th, 2017

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook



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  1. I love how you lay this out, and I LOVE my answers to your questions. It’s good to know the pain I’m choosing is the pain I want.

      • Claire O'Sullivan on April 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm
      • Reply

      Great read, good thoughts on both hobby vs career. I’d set the bar for 4 books a year. One is in the hands of an agent, having been labored over ‘forever.’ I’ve missed my 3-6 month mark on sending any of the rest out, since I SUCK. OK. All 1st drafts suck, that I know.

      I didn’t figure I’d make it soon. I call myself an author because I have one book published (non-fiction though it be – self-published). Also, ‘hobby’ at this time would be more appropriate until my craft is well-honed, and a novel every three months becomes easy. Ha.

      Read a novel by someone about a year ago. The author refused to take one suggestion, one ounce of critiquing. The novel came out, self-published,awful. The author wanted a 5 star review from me.

      Depth and quality, for me, trumps quantity. Truth is, I do want to be a professional author, but the novel must sing with resounding characters (and a good plot etc etc).

      Recently, read 2 out of 30+ novels from another author. The second one the author skimped on quality. I have also read books from authors well-known, from Avon to Zondervan. In their rapidly written works, I’ve noted that even large publishing houses accept these works without a nod toward SPaG, syntax, 2-dimensional characters stick out, ugh. That is sad.

      Quality x time + patience = hobby (sometimes). Quantity/time (4-6 novels a year) + impatience/PH or agent = professional crap (sometimes). (Stephen King seems to overcome this equation).

      Last — some of these perfectionist authors are as dry as swallowing the Sahara. Stephen King, again, manages to be the exception. Darn him! I spent 20 bucks on a famous writer’s book that I use for sleeping material. Bought it 5 years ago, and still it sits on my shelf.

      1. One of my favorite romance authors has a book in the middle of a series that I could not finish. It was that bad. All I could think was she was on deadline and the publisher or somebody told her “here’s a plot, just finish the book.” There’s such pressure for output.

  2. I have always enjoyed reading your ‘blogs’- they buoyed me up! But this one, it made me laugh, shake my head, and think: This lady is wise beyond her years. If I wouldn’t know you from your picture I would have thought of you as having had a full life. How can a young person have all this wisdom? But then, an old person wouldn’t have your ‘spank’. Keep going, I love your newsletters.

  3. Do WordPress followers no longer get this in their Reader? I haven’t seen your recent posts show up there, and I’m not seeing a Follow button for that way now 🙁 will sign up by email if that’s the way to go now. Let me know!

    1. Yeah when I moved over I lost a TON of followers *weeps*. So yes, e-mail is probably best. Thank you! 😀

      1. Thanks, will follow!

  4. So, I love that your blogs not only preach craft, but give us novice folks a peek into the LIFE of an established writer. I relate to the “day job” woes. I go into work everyday and look at my notebook wishing I could rise and just write. I think one of the reasons I don’t leave my job as a retail manager for a more lucrative, and secure job (ie: follow in my brothers’ footsteps) is because my heart is with my laptop. Why consign myself to a “professional” job that will not allow me to at least start pursuing publishing. Anyways, gotta go register fro your class “Plotting for Dummies”. Guess it wouldn’t hurt to have a refresher of the things I learned from reading “Story Engineering”!

    1. My husband is a musician and artist and he has helped me more fully embrace that artistic life as marker of personal success over career achievement. I have a GREAT job that allows me a lot of flexibility to do my writing. I could also work my way higher up the ladder and lose that flexibility. I was passed up for a promotion b/c the person who applied against me told our manager she would do any job on any team because she wanted to advance higher. I’m glad she got the job over me because I’m not willing to sacrifice my creative life.

      The writers I admire most are those who write on their lunch break, or on the train/bus commuting, or at the crack of dawn before the kids wake up. If you love it, you’ll find the time.

  5. oooooh absolutely! “choose your pain”!!! I tried for so many years to be ‘normal’, until I escaped (outside world calls it retiring)! Now, I write in between reading, and read (manuscripts for author clients) in between writing. I push myself from a novel to web content (for moola) to flash fiction and on. Just like keeping the body limber, gotta keep the mind and muse hoppin’.

    And yeah, a hobby is nice — but it ain’t building material that might sweep readers along on your ‘ride’.

    Thanks, Kristen — so fun, always.

  6. You are correct, writers ARE masochists. But in a good way! 😉 This resonated and was exactly what I needed to hear. And I really need to go back and read your book again. (For anyone reading my comment, if you don’t have this book, run, I say RUN to the nearest keyboard and order it ASAP! It’s is worth a hundred times what you’ll pay for it!) Thank you!

  7. This was written for the strange entity that is me. A hundred years ago when I was a writing major and teacher it felt like I was expected to be an author–more, to making a living at it! But putting myself through 12 years of college left little time for more than emoting fantasy stories before bed as stress-release.

    But now it’s a different world, a big, wide internet world with a community of writers and I’m happily just one more NaNo in the crowd and I have my childhood goals back: I WANT to be a good writer! I have things to say and I want to reach people but I know it’s both fun AND work. And with no more pressure or self-pressure to “succeed” I’m free to finally put in that work.

    Ask me in a couple years if my goals have changed re: publication. Sure there’s still the dream. But for the moment, I’m just enjoying the journey again. Looking for writing buddies and colleagues to hold me accountable–not to being a famous success, just to being a better writer.

    • Angela on April 5, 2017 at 3:47 pm
    • Reply

    Love it! Blunt but true. I’ve been at this writing thing for about 13 years but was actually dedicated for maybe two. I feel the most alive when I write. I can’t wait for this school year to end so I can hyper focus on writing again.

  8. Yeah, there is a distinct difference between hobbyist and professional. The professionals always know what they are, but the hobbyist sometimes don’t. I ran into trouble with that on writing message boards. A lot of the hobbyists wanted shortcuts to getting published, wanted to know how to game the system. It was hard because I wanted to learn craft, to learn to be a better writer, and that wasn’t always the case with other writers. Some wanted to game the system, check the box on the easy stuff so they could say to themselves they’d done their best. Others would actually ask for help improving their craft, and then not want it because it was too hard to learn. Then they complain about how torturous writing is. Then why write if it’s not fun? And thank you for mentioning the fun part. I’d like to start selling enough to I can have fun all day instead of a few hours at a time.

  9. Thank you for sharing so much of your heart with us. You inspire me!

  10. Writing is mega-hard work. Enjoyable but hard. And I think it HAS to be enjoyable, to make the scale of hard work tolerable. That ‘mega-author’ status comes only by accident – in all the books I’ve written (mostly via the trad system) the hit-rate for getting to the best-seller list has been about 1 in 5. One time I ALMOST managed to dislodge the cookbooks that dominate the top non-fiction sellers here in NZ. Almost. I got to No. 3 with a book on engineering. My publishers, Random House, sent me a bottle of champagne to mark the moment.

      • claire o'sullivan on April 5, 2017 at 9:17 pm
      • Reply

      Wow – so far I just get the rejection note 🙂

      I wouldn’t know what to do with a bottle of champagne, but congrats on RH sending that to you! They … were … impressed. Good to hear success stories.

  11. Glad I’m not the only one who did the extra credit for an A+. 🙂

  12. “I can finish and when I finish, it is actually GOOD!”
    Yes! I am Almost Finished, and starting to get elated about how it’s actually pretty decent, and I know how to make it better! And the next one won’t take me anywhere NEAR as long!
    Off to wade into some post-beta edits with a smile on my face.

  13. Your system ate my comment 🙁
    It was about this:
    “I can finish and when I finish, it is actually GOOD!”
    I am at the stage of Almost Finished (incorporating beta feedback) and feeling pretty stoked because it’s turning out pretty decent, though I say it myself. It’s hard work, but I’m feeling the creator’s delight.
    And the next one will be faster, as I incorporate the lessons I’ve learned and keep on learning more. (Mmm, craft books…)

    1. Aaand as soon as I clicked submit, both comments showed up. Feel free to Frankencomment them, or biff one, or whatever. It’s your blog!

      1. LOL. We will leave it. Makes me look good 😛 . With this new system I have to hand approve all the comments. On the old site if I approved you once, you were gold. Sigh. Still figuring stuff out.

        • claire o'sullivan on April 6, 2017 at 1:45 am
        • Reply

        Ha ha! At least you didn’t accidentally email half a query to an agent. Yes, I did.

        1. Better. I misspelled “Query” in the subject line *face palm* . I was so nervous and checked and rechecked the body of the e-mail query but not spellcheck for the subject line and didn’t think to look at it.

            • claire o'sullivan on April 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm

            one better: I emailed requested materials, somehow without numbered pages AND a double portion of three pages. Triple face-palm, heavy dose of groan. Sometimes it pays to wait a few days, review the paperwork, before hitting send.

    • Cat Dubie on April 6, 2017 at 1:01 am
    • Reply

    Another great post, Kristen. Loved your six-year-old guitarist story. It was the same for me, as a kid, but with the piano. I knew if I had a piano I’d be able to play like Billy Joel. Didn’t happen.

    But I never lost my desire to write stories that other people could enjoy. Reading and writing has always been important to me.

    Thanks for laying it on the line for us.

  14. This was hilarious – lego suppository – been there, done that. Hope to become more serious about my writing after reading you.

  15. I have been reading your posts for quite a while and this one really hit me. It’s so similar to many things in my life. I play tennis for fun, but it’s not fun when you suck. So I do lessons, drills, and practice so I can have fun being good at tennis. I never really thought of writing in that way until you laid it out so clearly in this post. Thanks for the inspiration! It was perfect.

  16. Now I’m going to have Jolene stuck in my head all day. Writing is work. Like you I left a day job, one I actually loved, but not as much as I love writing full time. My children as at least past the time of lego minefields and cartoon shower gels. Lots of AXE taking up shower space though and the house is never lonely.

  17. What a terrific point to make. Everything we do is a decision. As a wise man once said, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    Thanks for a timely reminder. I’m done with school in a few weeks, and gearing up to start hitting things hard. I’ve got one book to edit, another to finish, a series idea to get going, and a bunch of short stories to write just to keep things interesting.

  18. “Have you found that NOT sucking is way more fun than sucking?”

    Amen and amen! When I started writing, I didn’t know anything. I just wrote whatever I felt compelled to write. In a way there was a purity to it, just writing to express whatever was inside me. But eventually, you want someone to read what you write. Maybe even more than one or two close friends. You look at what you wrote that seemed so inspired when you wrote it and you realize it sucks. Once you want others to read it, you care whether it sucks or not.
    It took me six years to write the first draft of a novel, and then I realized I needed serious help with the craft. I got it from local and online courses, joining writing groups and critique groups, and kept rewriting, and one day it didn’t suck anymore. Before that, the writing and rewriting was painful. Now that I actually enjoy reading what I write and so does my critique group, writing is fun again.

  19. Great post, Kristen. Oh, and your subtle marketing works – just ordered my copy of Rise of the Machines after clicking on the link! Looking forward to picking up tips from it because yes, social media is becoming a nightmare for me.

    1. 😀 . THANKS! Well, it shouldn’t be. It should be enjoyable, at least the everyday part.

  20. Hi Kristen, how do the digital classes work? Do I have to attend during the precise time frame, or is there a recorded copy I can watch at my leisure? #parentingproblems

    1. You get a password to attend the live class which you can watch from your computer. All you need is an Internet connection. The class is recorded and that is sent out to all who purchase and you get a replay of everything that happened live 🙂 .

  21. Thank you for the swift kicks, so cheerfully administered, Kristen!

    • Theresa on April 8, 2017 at 7:46 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you.

    I know you don’t care much for fanfic, but I do. There is no reason why I can’t study and learn and then write the best canon and/or AU (alternate universe) fanfic I can write.

    I have a lot to learn before I could ever write professionally, and I may never do so. But goals can change, as you said, and when I am several more miles and years down this road, I may find myself branching out. Until then, I’m happy learning, writing, and reading.

    I enjoy your posts for professionals, including platform building, etc. Some of them I can use now, or soon, and the others maybe someday. One never knows!

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

    1. I have nothing against fanfic, LOL. Would probably write it if time allowed. I think it is really excellent practice.

  22. Thank-you yet again for your timely blog post. I am in the middle of examining whether or not I’m serious about being a pro children’s book writer or if I’m going to just keep dabbling. I’d like to sign up for your plotting webinar the next time it is available. I only read the blog today, so I missed the webinar last week! Doh! Thanks for continuing to present inspiration and reality in equal measure.

    • Melanie Page on April 10, 2017 at 8:35 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for your wisdom, as usual. I love your work and I’ve missed it. Glad to have found you again.

    I totally agree with you, but for me, it’s not as simple as choosing the rat race or the creative life. I have this little problem of liking to eat. And pay bills.

    So, even though I can only put a little time, sometimes, into writing, I still try to do the best I can, hone my craft, write quality. I want to write something that is as good as the professional product.

    At the same time, there is a freedom that comes from knowing that I can take my time, do my own thing. Because I am more of a hobbyist, there aren’t the same pressures.

    Best of both worlds really.

    Have a fabulous week!

  23. Oh, man! I missed your class, Plotting for Dummies but so enjoyed this post. Thanks!

    1. I will be having it again soon so keep an eye out for it 😀 .

    • Ryan Odenweller on April 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm
    • Reply

    Just getting into the game. Decided to turn my hobby into something serious, but I have no idea where to start. Just joined a local writing club in Florida and hoping it will help. Where do you find quality beta readers?

  1. […] Which do you write for? Yourself or to publish? […]

  2. […] Cool thing about any level of writing is we have freedom to choose our pain.  […]

  3. […] In fact, I have a fun post on this very subject, Choose Your Pain: Hobbyist vs. Professional Author. […]

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