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Writerhead

Updating a lot today. This is because I've been thinking a bit over the weekend, but this is the first time I've had chance to get them out of my head and onto LJ. Hence the infoglut. I'm also slowly chipping my way into a more structured set of tags.

This is a sort-of-response to aarondb's post about where his life as a writer is going. Because, as with so many things, I'm coming at some of the same sorts of thoughts and situations from a totally different direction.

See, Aaron's one of these people who's always wanted to be a writer. It's obvious to anyone who meets him, that's his one obsession in life: getting things into words. He's chosen to do that, and honed himself like a laser on that one pursuit. He's laid back enough that most people don't notice the intensity that he has, but believe me it's there. He's emblematic of most freelancers (and indeed writers) that I know, who spend most of their lives writing in one form or another because it's what they do.

I've not got that. Or rather, I don't just have that. I have a need to write (anyone who's seen me scribbling notes in the pub knows that), but I can't give up everything else to pursue just that. I have a love of computers and mathematics, and I've got a decent job that lets me put that into practice. If I gave that up to devote myself to writing, I'd not like myself at all. I actually like my job, for the most part, and it gives me a chance to do things I otherwise wouldn't get motivated to do in the first place.

Aaron said:

I know it's risky and I know the wisest thing would be to get another full-time job and tap away at the novel when the chances arise.

But there's a sense of opportunity, here. A feeling of Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained. It's like I have to harness this energy while it's around and easy to come by.


And that's the bit that hits me. Because ultimately, that's what I'm doing. Whether I'm writing my own stuff or plugging away at a freelance chapter, I'm just filling in the cracks when the chances arise. Admittedly, I make some of those cracks by the age old system of not sleeping and driving myself insane, but I don't have the energy and I don't have that feeling, because it feels like I've already devoted my life to working and hacking systems and fucking with numbers for people. Writing's something I do in my evenings and weekends, and while I do enjoy it I have to be honest with myself and point out that freelancing all that I could still wouldn't be bringing in the ~£18K a year I'm on now. I have these moments when I wonder why I bother writing for cash at all, since it still after these years feels like it's no more than a hobby.

Which is weird, because most people don't have a hobby that acts like an addiction. Most people (who aren't writers) don't compulsively consume paperbacks at a rate of one per week minimum just to keep the brain ticking over and analysing the language. Most people don't spring out of bed at four in the morning with a half-formed scene or a perfect twist to a situation that needs writing right fucking now. That's not a hobby, it's somewhere between a calling and a psychological disorder. And I've got it bad.

I need to write, but I can't take me-as-writer seriously, I can't conceive of dropping the day job and working part time or agency, because then I'd be denying one of my other loves as well as making myself a hell of a lot poorer, simply to make money doing the other thing I love. So instead, I have moments when I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and moments when I feel like what I'm doing is shite.

But fuck it. I'm self-identifying more and more with at least one facet of the archetype that is the writer. In many ways, I'm as much a writer because of the job — I happily sacrifice lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends, to get words down — as I am despite it. And I'm not just a writer. I can still claim hacker and mathematician without a word of a lie.

But sometimes, it feels like being all of them is less than being one of the three. That's something that does keep my brain ticking over when I'm lying awake with nothing else to think about. Oh well.

Comments

( 9 informants — We want information! )
artbroken
Jan. 8th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
I understand exactly where you're coming from.
autopope
Jan. 8th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC)
I've heard a society of authors study circa 2001 cited, that discovered that 80% of novelists earn less than £20,000 per year.

This is probably true. Also true: the average author earns something ridiculous like £2,500 a year.

It's the long tail, with a vengeance, because there are a lot of writers out there who have day jobs and emit one book every 3-5 years.

Plus, it takes a long time to go full-time -- in my case, and hurrying it along like crazy, it only took a couple of years from the first novel sale (grinding out two a year and doing freelance journalism in my other time).

So don't sweat it. You've got fifty productive years ahead of you, right?
figg
Jan. 8th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
And I'm not just a writer. I can still claim hacker and mathematician without a word of a lie.

Ah. You're a communicator of structured ideas. I still prefer hacker.
(Deleted comment)
aarondb
Jan. 9th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
There are a zillion people who say just what I say and mean it just as much, who end up going nowhere at the end of the run. Bear that in mind.

Also, in the Werewolf Forum group (which I can never post to for some reason) you mentioned I was a Liverpudlian. I am a Londoner in Liverpool. Ethan did not escape being chewed out a few weeks ago for this error, but he had the excuses of going by my address and never hearing me talk.

You, on the other hand, shall pay.

Oh yes, you shall.
digitalraven
Jan. 9th, 2006 01:43 am (UTC)
You're the only person I know who wants to be called a Londoner.

Weird Southerners.
aarondb
Jan. 9th, 2006 11:32 am (UTC)
It's because pain excites me.
fizzyboot
Jan. 9th, 2006 12:59 am (UTC)
Writing but not a writer
Which is weird, because most people don't have a hobby that acts like an addiction. Most people (who aren't writers) don't compulsively consume paperbacks at a rate of one per week minimum just to keep the brain ticking over and analysing the language. Most people don't spring out of bed at four in the morning with a half-formed scene or a perfect twist to a situation that needs writing right fucking now. That's not a hobby, it's somewhere between a calling and a psychological disorder. And I've got it bad.

That's a good description, but not one I feel applies to me.

I wonder if I'm the only person I know who is currently writing a book but doesn't consider themself to be a writer? So why am I writing, then? Because I feel I have something to say that needs to be said, that's important. I enjoy writing, kinda, but I don't feel addicted to it.

If I am addicted to anything, it's programming. And I only need a fix of that every few months.
chrisondra
Jan. 9th, 2006 10:22 am (UTC)
>>But sometimes, it feels like being all of them is less than being one of the three.<<

In all honesty, Stew, I think you have it right as you have it now. You know who you are. You're a writer/hacker/mathematician.

Sometimes I feel silly. I sit back and think how much I would love to be able to hone down my writing skills enough to be able to write for people and sometimes I think how I would love to focus on art and get some money out of that... but then, my big calling is to be a teacher, and I just don't have time to do all of it.

But part of me is still a writer and part of me is still an artist. For me to drop my focus on them and just focus on being a teacher, I think, would be denying a part of who I am.

So no, I don't think being all three is less than being one of the three. All of the three add up to you while one of the three can't possibly hope to add up to you in your entirety. It's not who you are. Cutting off two to focus on one would be denying those parts of you. Personally, I think you have it right right now. Do the job where you can put two of the things you love into action and do the other thing you love in your off time. I think it would be even worse for you to do it than it would be for me cause I don't draw or write nearly as much as you write.

Stick to what you feel best defines who you are.
( 9 informants — We want information! )

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