Friday, August 12, 2005


Mr. Finlay is having an interesting discussion about writing full-time based on something Mr. Lain said, I believe. I posted the following comment to the thread and then thought I should reproduce it here since it fits the brief of my blog.


I've thought about this a lot, as I am in a position right now, if I cut a few perks [and did a little more freelancing], to live off my writing. But, I don't want to. I've learned three things over the years. One--I am least likely to write when I have some financial doubt hanging over my head, and royalties, even from the big houses, do not necessarily come at exactly the time they're supposed to; nor can you assume your books will continue to sell well enough for you to keep getting contracts from publishers large enough to support you. Two--I like the social interaction of a day job, and feel that it feeds my creativity outside of that environment. I did have a couple of periods where I was able, for a period of a few months, to do nothing but write, and it was not a particularly productive time. Three--there's only so much good writing I can do in a day. I.e., the kind of rough draft, get-the-inspiration-down stuff. Maybe two to four hours. The rest--the editing, the rewriting--can be done anywhere at any time, so might as well be on my lunch break or after work, even if a little tired.

There's also something to be said about the idea that you become as efficient as you have to be. In other words, if you have all day to write something, it takes you all day to write it. If you have two hours, you may find you can still write it just as well in that time...if you have to.

And I've learned another thing--I don't ever want to be beholden to an outside source regarding what I write about. So I don't have any desire to be in a position where I'm so dependent on my fiction writing income that I lose a certain amount of leverage. You will not see me cranking out a novel to make sure I get money when I need it. I'm not saying doing so in not admirable and that it doesn't work for others who can create really good fiction that way. But it doesn't work for me and I don't want to be in that position. Ever.

On a kind of related topic--a professional writer can be many things, including someone who writes full-time. But that's not the only definition. If Gene Wolfe had a part-time job in addition to his fiction writing--and he did hold a job for quite awhile as I understand it--would he be considered an amateur?


At 7:21 AM, Blogger A.R.Yngve said...

"If Gene Wolfe had a part-time job in addition to his fiction writing--and he did hold a job for quite awhile as I understand it--would he be considered an amateur?"

Someone would, no doubt.

Look: this is the "How Do You Define X" parlor game -- and it never ends. It's a cul-de-sac, just as hopeless as the perennial "How Do You Define Science Fiction" topic that leads nowhere.

Let's ignore definitions. What matters is what you *do.*
So you've published a book?
Was it a good one?
What do I call you then?
"Homo Sapiens."

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree. It's important for some writer organizations to set thresholds for writers to meet in order to join at certain levels, but that's just about the organizations, not about the writing. Especially since the standards for "professional" publication aren't particularly high.


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