Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why So Serious? Tales of an Author Hobbyist


by Melinda Pierce

First, thank you, Rebecca, for allowing me to hijack Once Written, Twice Shy today.

Second, let me throw in a Happy Birthday to my hubby! Love you lots, babe.

And now I’ll get down to the business of being serious – or not.  When I started my writing journey three years ago, I connected with a fabulous critique group of newbie authors, all yet to be published.  We each laid out our goals, and I introduced them to my ten year plan.

The Ten Year Plan:  To publish anything within a 10 yr time frame or give up writing, because if I couldn’t do it by then, becoming an author wasn’t my thing.

Them: Snickering behind their hands or full out laughing, while writing away at their soon to be published manuscripts.

Why would they laugh? Because it was obvious I knew nothing about the publishing industry.  Nothing.  I’d entered a few Writer’s Digest short story contests and I’d even had a short story published in an on-line magazine. (The magazine went under after the second issue, totally not my fault.)  I’d read a few craft books and I knew I had a lot to learn about writing in general.  I joined a few writers’ groups and communities, attended some online workshops, and generally I started paying attention to the overall world of writing.

That’s when I noticed the trend of blogs and articles defining what it was to be a serious writer. A serious writer is one who treats writing like a business.  He/she has a book plan, a marketing plan, short term goals, long term goals, a tribe, a presence online, an appealing website, attends conferences, networks, knows if she wants to self-pub or find an agent, and pumps those manuscripts out like there is no tomorrow.

Suddenly my ten year plan turned into a get-it-done-right-now plan.  All of it.  Otherwise, I wasn’t serious about being a writer or a published author.  So I dove in head first.  I set aside my writing time and started manuscripts that I thought would sell, because I had to sell to get my foot in the door.  I joined more groups, started more manuscripts (all without finishing the one before, mind you) and started a cycle that consumed my life.  But that’s the way it’s supposed to be, right?  Serious writers are consumed by writing.  There’s no time for anything else.  Butt in chair, butt in chair, kid in front of t.v., laundry piled on the floor, dishes stacked in the sink, mad at hubby because why the hell can’t he pitch in while I work on my break out novel?! So what if he worked 12 hours, I’m on to something this time, dammit!

Yes, almost three years of this cycle – running in circles and getting nowhere but miserable.  I hated sitting down at my computer and instead of trying to write, I’d surf the net, spend hours on Twitter, and think about writing and talk about writing, yet never actually added many words to page.  Then a couple of things happened.  The first, I had my little baby boy and it forced me out of the chair.

Second was a conversation with a friend that went something like this:

You have talent, just finish one of those manuscripts.

I weakly respond, I have a ten-year plan remember? Plenty of years left, hee hee.

That makes writing your hobby.

Lord have mercy, not the dreaded H word.  Anything but that.  Serious writers don’t treat writing as a hobby.  Hobbies are things you do when you have spare time.  In fact, when you Google the definition, here’s what pops up:

Hobby - An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure.

Wait a second – stop the presses (yes, I’m a cornball too).  That doesn’t sound like the definition of a dirty word.  Pleasure, well that’s kind of the whole reason I started writing in the first place.  I enjoyed creating, and it was about time for me to find that joy again. To do this, I had to change my way of thinking and I knew right where to start.

My own definition of a serious writer: A writer who cares about craft and producing a damn good book.  One who wants to give the reader an experience to remember.  Period.  All the rest doesn’t matter, at least it doesn’t to me right now.  Not at this stage of my ten-year plan, and this stage of my life.  This doesn’t mean I don’t care about my writing, it means it takes a lower rank in my list of priorities.  Kids want to play outside – writing gets set aside.  Hubby wants to watch a movie – writing gets set aside.

Call my writing a hobby, that’s okay – does that mean there isn’t any room for me in the world of writing? Nope. Does it ruin my chances of becoming a best-selling author someday? Not at all.  It does mean I’ve removed about 80% of the stress that I had placed upon myself, and I’m all the happier for it, and I’m positive my writing will reflect this.  If it takes two months or two years to get a book finished, it doesn’t matter to me as long as the end result is something I can be proud of.

Does writing as a hobby work for everyone? – of course not.  For many authors, it is your business, it is your career and you have to continue to treat it as such.  But for a few others a light bulb may go off and you may join me in this laid back journey of hobbyism.  ß which I’m not sure is a real word, but if I can someday get Snookie or Kim Kardashian to say it on a reality show, I have no doubt it’ll be added to the dictionary.

So good luck to each of you on your writing journey, however YOU decide to define it, and happy writing!

--Melinda

P.S. That critique group I mentioned above – every one of them is now a multi-published author, but that’s a post for another day. J

About Melinda: Melinda B. Pierce is an author hobbyist, mother of two, and self-proclaimed trophy wife – although her husband defines her as being more of high maintenance than anything else.  She writes in almost every romance genre and refuses to follow the path of most resistance.  Connect with her on twitter @MelindaBPierce

8 comments:

  1. Awesome post. There's definitely nothing wrong with having writing as a hobby. Hobbies are more fun than work. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It took me 10 years to earn my bachelor's degree. Why? I was working too, because I had to pay for it all myself and traveling--trips like going to Europe 3 times. In the end, I still got my degree and whatever path you choose to publication, I know you'll get there.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm all for relieving as much stress as possible from the writing process. And there are so many great things going on in life---like family and friends---writing doesn't need to exclude them. So let's take off that hairshirt ladies and live alittle!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post, Melinda. And you are a great writer. I loved what I read of your work. Knowing how and where you want to do something is an important first step. You can have it all. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good for you. Sometimes we all put too much pressure on ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you again, Rebecca for letting me stop by today.

    Becky- exactly, just because it takes longer doesn't mean it isn't important, just a little lower on the list of life's priorities.

    Jen - I had to look up hairshirt - great phrase.

    Marian - Thanks for the kind words :)

    Greta - thanks for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yea, I'm the same, I put a lot of pressure on myself and my shyness/anxiety really makes things so much more difficult. Thanks for your post, it was a good read.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you, Melinda. I enjoyed reading your empowering article. Bottom-line for me: we're here once. Fun is not a four letter word. Seriously. Count the letters. There are only three. : )

    ReplyDelete