Thursday, April 04, 2002

What it's Like to be a Girl--I Mean a Writer

A friend from Illinois contacted me by e-mail a few weeks ago to say she was working on a "Books" badge for Girl Scouts and needed to ask an author what it is like to be a writer. Since I responded by e-mail and had my answer in writing and since I didn't have anything else to write about this week...Isn't it interesting how Weblog entries come about?

Anyway, for all you Girl Scouts who need to know what it's like to be a writer:

Writing is a job. It's my work. It surprises a lot of people to hear that. They always think it's exciting to have books published. Well, it's certainly more exciting to have them published than not to have them published, but by the time a book comes out in the stores, we should be working on another one or on some other writing project. Like any other job, we always have to be working. And no matter how much you like your work, it is work.

Doctors, police officers, engineers, and, I'm sure, many other kinds of people have the regular work they do (taking care of the sick, fighting crime, designing things, whatever) and then another aspect of their jobs that is different and is usually referred to as paperwork. Doctors have insurance paperwork, police officers have reports, engineers have to apply for permits from state agencies for their projects. Authors, especially authors who aren't famous, have to publicize their work. For me that means planning author presentations for schools, creating materials to send to schools to let them know I'm available, talking with school representatives, and going to the schools. I also have a Web site that needs to be updated regularly. All these sorts of things take up time that I could use writing.

One of the good things about being a writer (besides being able to eat while you work and work in your night clothes) is that everything you do or read or see or experience can give you an idea or be used some way in your writing. So, in a way, we're working all the time. Another good thing is that we don't have bosses telling us what we should be doing all day every day. Unfortunately, that's also a bad thing, because it's a lot easier to concentrate and stick to your work when someone makes you do it.

Many writers only work part time because writing doesn't provide a very steady source of income. (You only get paychecks from your publisher a couple of times a year, and you never know when you'll make a sale to a magazine.) So they're holding down another job that may be full-time in business, education, medicine, law, or almost anything. A lot of writers are working extremely hard in order to be writers.

Now, I know that I haven't made writing sound like a whole lot of fun (except for the part about being able to eat while you work and work in your nightclothes). I'd just like to finish by saying that if you are a person who loves books and reading, who looks forward to going to libraries and bookstores, and who enjoys planning out the lives of imaginary people, writing is a way to live your life surrounded by and doing the things you love.

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