posted by Aunty Cindy
Our very own Bandita Trish is the RWA National PRO Liaison, and in her RWR column this month she touched on a subject that has been a personal sticking point for me. When can you call your writing a “career?" Trish makes a compelling argument that if you are writing and you are submitting your work then you have a “writing career.” If only I could get myself to buy into that concept.
Unfortunately, I can’t.
Call it a mental block, my faulty upbringing, or our overall society’s obsession with monetary compensation. Whatever the reason or excuse, I equate a career with income. While I’m now well into my fourth year of writing as my only “work,” so far I have not earned a penny and therefore do not see it as a valid “career.”
I’m lucky enough to live close to our own Bandita Jo and we are face-to-face critique partners. We were having a discussion about our “writing careers” and the validation of publication a couple of weeks ago. We concluded that a big part of our problem with not seeing our writing careers as such stemmed from our previous careers. In those careers, there were definite milestones to be reached to achieve desired results.
In my previous life, I knew that if I did A + B correctly and diligently, then I would achieve C. And I would be compensated accordingly. So far, this has not been my experience with writing. I’m not bragging, but simply stating fact when I say that for the past several years, I’ve busted my butt learning and doing A, B and even WXYZ, all to no avail. Still no C. Most of the time, it feels like for every step forward I struggle, I’m slapped back two or three. The milestones in my “writing career” seem frustratingly far away. Or, once I do achieve them, turn out to have no real significance in actually reaching my ultimate goal.
Also in my previous life, I’m not ashamed to admit that I started on a very low rung of the government bureaucratic ladder and struggled along for a dozen years climbing through that crowd to rise to a management level that not a lot of people achieve. My point being that I’m not a stranger to goal setting and struggle, not to mention disappointment. Furthermore, when I was clinging on those lower career rungs, I learned a valuable lesson: Act As If. When I was a lowly clerk and wanted to be an analyst, I took my cues from the analysts around me and “acted as if” I were already an analyst. Eventually, I became an analyst and again, used my role models to “act as if” I were a manager. Once again, after the required work and struggle, I became one.
Sorry to say, that so far “acting as if” I were already a published author hasn’t helped me achieve the desired result. In fact, the way to achieve my goal seems perpetually changing with no clear path. And frankly, without that validation of selling, having my book out there being read by somebody, I don’t feel like I have a “writing career” at all. Am I the only one suffering from this angst? Do I simply need a new and improved definition of “writing career?” I’d love to know about your “writing career,” and any and all advice you’d care to give me about mine.