Lately I have read a lot of writers making disparaging comments about other writers who do not follow their model of the craft. Many so called writers/authors seem to believe that if you do not treat your craft as a job with set hours and goals of so much a day, that you don't do everything and anything in a set way to gain lots of fame and fortune then you area hobbyist and not a writer. Since when?
Writing fiction has always been the place that the storyteller, the bard or even the teacher exists. Those of us who are trying to sell our work are not all desiring to make a ridiculous amount of money. Many of us want readers. Yes we would like to be paid for our work, and I assure you even when you write short stories like I do, it is work but it is a passion, not a JOB.
A job is what you do to put food on the table, a roof over your head and clothing on your skin. While writing can fulfill those needs, there are much easier ways to do that. Writing is as easy as breathing and as hard as breathing can be. It is something you do because you have a story to tell inside you that needs to come out and no other way will work.
As a long time writer but a short time publisher, I know this well. I wrote things down for years that I never shared. It was not till my husband gently pushed me that I finally dove head first into publishing my work for money. And while I would love to sell thousands of copies of my tales each month, I know very well that it is a crapshoot. Most, if not all of the classics were only discovered by readers after years and years of languishing in obsurity.
Writing is like any other art or sport. Yes, everyone can write or sing or run or hit a ball, but it takes years to get good and it is more than likely you will never get out of the bush leagues. You may die unknown only to be discovered fifty years later and haled as a master of your craft.
The reason I comment about hobbies is this. A hobby is something you do for fun. Yes, you might be one of those who go a little off the deep end but a hobby is something you can put aside to do your job, to spend time with friends or family and it is just something you do for enjoyment. Writing, for most people, is not something you do for fun. You do it either in secret or out and proud because you must. You have tales in your head, yelling at you like demons to tell their tale.
How many hobbyists will spend hours researching some minor thing before going out and observing every person that walks by them for quirks? What in a normal person would be considered mentally unstable is what makes the best writers. We observe, research and develop. We do our best to make our characters real to the reader, our places seem like someplace you could visit if you had the money to and a passport to imagination. We then release those hours and hours of hard work and heart's blood like a parent letting go their beloved child to the wide world and hope that they make it.
Unlike the singer or the musician, artist or sculpture, we don't get instant feedback. We don't have fangirls singing our words or fanboys panting after us. (okay in most cases) We let go our babies and then we have to turn into pimps. We push our babies on anyone who is there and hope that someone will pick up that tale and read it and better yet love it enough to pick up our other babies. All the while we have to dive back into the maelstrom of our creative side and work on a new baby.
Unlike a job, we can't turn off our computer, lock up the office and go home to relax and have some diner. No, we are constantly taking in new things, listening to the tales our fictional children are saying and tell those tales.
Now this might be mostly because I write genre fiction. I am not sure those who write nonfiction have the same type of need to write. I know they are not expect to put out the same amount of work that a fiction writer is expected to. I know they are paid better, not expected to give away their work for the seething masses. I do give away my work from time to time in the hopes of garnering those precious reviews that are supposed to help the world find us and i can honestly say that of the thousands of copies of my tales that I gave away in the first year I published, only a few handful of reviews came in.
In nearly three years of publishing (and over thirty years of writing) I am slowly seeing an increase. My numbers are small enough that I have been accused of being a hobbyist. Of being not good, of needing to pay for people to make my work better. Yet those who do read my work enjoy it. By and large the majority of reviews of my work are four and five stars and respectful.
No, I am not looking at the reviews showing on Amazon for the anthologies I have been part of. Yes, I have one anthology on my list with almost forty reviews but that is for the whole book, not for my one tale in the book. While it is fun to be part of an anthology, I don't look to that as overall to my work but a place to get my name out there.
Yes, this is a long and rambling piece. When I get annoyed this can happen. Being told that if I don't do the Stephen King school of writing I must be a hobbyist is insulting and annoying to me. While Mr King is a god in his field, has made buckets of money and has the respect of many, he is NOT my hero. No, authors like Jo Clayton are. People who go along working on their tales in relative obscurity yet became known names are my heroes. Yes I would love to make enough money so my hubby doesn't have to work six days a week to support us but there are only so many places for writers to make that type of money and I do not write that type of tale.
Yes I could do the research into the hot genres and write formalistic tales of zombies, vampires and heaving bosoms but they would not be me. My tales are what they are. Filled with characters, dialog, descriptions and a tale that hopefully keeps the reader up till they finish it.
So what I am trying to say is don't call me a hobbyist! My hobbies are crocheting, watching fun movies, listening to odd music, trying to paint, photography, and just maybe soon sculpting. Writing for me is not a hobby. I can no more not write than I can not breathe. I will write, I will publish and I hope someday I will hit on a larger group of fans of my work. Call me a writer, call me an author but just don't call me a hobbyist.