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Wednesday, March 09, 2011


This is where I spend anywhere from 4 - 8 hours a day (or more)

This blog was prompted by a recent comment made to me by another writer suggesting that the reason I wasn't accepted into a big writer's organization was that perhaps I was not considered to be 'qualified', but simply a 'hobbyist."   This really riled me, under the circumstance, when I have been working pretty well full-time as a write for the past few years. Even before that, when I worked either full-time or part-time in daycare, I was careful to spend all my extra time at the computer composing, teaching writing classes, attending workshops and marketing my work.

For years now I've kept a daily 'time sheet' to monitor the time I spend writing or in writing-related activities.  This isn't just for my own benefit, but because yearly I declare a self-employment income as a writer and in case I should be audited I need to prove that I'm conscientiously attempting to make a living from my writing.  At the same time, I've warned people who sign up for my travel writing courses and tell me "I want to make a career change", not to quit their day job.  Because chances are, especially in this day and age with cut-backs in the print markets and very little (if any) pay for on-line writing, unless you are employed by a publisher you will not make enough to live on.  I only manage by earning money teaching writing and by collecting the measly pension allotted 'retired' people.  The money I get back yearly from my tax refund is what buys my ticket for another trip.  And if I'm going to join a big writer's organization, I'm not going to pay and arm and a leg to join when I could never afford to fly across the country to their conventions or go on their comp trips.  I do belong to one local writer's organization that I find helpful and beneficial and once again this year got chosen for their Off the Page Program, to go into school and talk writing to kids and get paid for it.  The other group I belong to, the travel writers, has provided a couple of winning tickets for trips but other than their name on my business cards, not much else.

When I've tried joining this other big organization I've been told they did not accept on-line writing (at least not until recently and it all depends on the traffic on the site); they do not consider the fact I edit and publish my own travel 'zine (same reason) and don't recognize that I teach travel writing at night school (though at the moment I don't have a Travel class, just creative writing).  For the last few years I've written daily for another on-line travel 'zine (the Vancouver Guide.  and been paid fairly well for my efforts as well as having some print publications (paid) and other on-line publications (paid).  But apparently this isn't good enough and I am therefore labeled 'not qualified'.  Well, piss on that!

I went through my work (on-line links as well as print publications) just to see how many stories I've published since my very first story went into Arrival Travel & Leisure back in 1983 (for which I was paid about $150.)  I was amazed at my body of work.  Everything from shortened pieces in local free newspapers (that paid a whole $5) to my biggest achievement in a glossy magazine that got me $700. including photos.  I made this list not only for my own benefit, but because on my new website, which is to introduce me to potential agents/publishers as I start my journey trying to market Shadow of the Lion, I wanted to have a list of published work available.  It includes the work I did on the APA Insight Guide travel book of Vancouver & Environs in 1993 for which I also got paid a pretty penny and got to learn how to use a computer.

It's true, that if you want to be a writer (and especially if you expect to collect a self-employment rebate on your taxes) you need to prove you are a serious writer trying to make a living.  This means you have to be sending stories out and getting the work done.  Which is, writing more than once or twice a year or giving your work away to these publications (there are too many) who expect you to contribute your work for free while they glean benefits from their own site.  (The reason I started Travel Thru History  was because I got sick of being bullied by an on-line editor who did just that.  I decided to start my own site where I could mentor new writers, pay them a small stipend and let them at least get 'rewarded' for their efforts.  No, I don't make money on my site other than what I get from the google ads.  But I find it rewarding enough to see the great stories that get contributed to my site each month and to know the thrill first-time writers feel when they see their work in print.

Besides my travel writing I do other work and recently completed a long historical fiction novel that required tons of discipline to write and many hours of research.  That has been my biggest achievement so far and it will be the biggest thrill of my life when I see Shadow of the Lion in print.  But there's still lots of work ahead, besides the final editing, the marketing process.  Meanwhile I have to get those travel stories written that I've had on hold, and plan new programs for my Spring classes. 

Writing for me IS a full time job.  I spend anywhere from 4 to 8 hrs a day at the computer and sometimes much longer.  That's not counting the time I spend at classes or going to and from classes on public transit.  And then there's my own critique group I belong to each week.  We have to produce writing for that. It helps keep you focused to belong to a writer's group and I've found my Scribblers group to be invaluable as I struggled through the long epic saga of Shadow.  Now I'm ready to start finishing that other novel I'd set aside so long ago to write Alexander's story.  It's an exciting new prospect and one that will be sure to keep me at my computer hours at a time when perhaps I'd rather be out strolling in the sun or watching TV.(The TV doesn't go on in my house until the 11.30 pm news).

Yes, my writer's life is a full time commitment, and I will not let anyone suggest to me that it's otherwise.  I know I am qualified.  My track record for publication, recognition by other writers and by those who have successfully completed my courses and published their own work tells me that.
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Gregory House said...

Good on you! Keep up the effort, I also get very tired of the implication that if you aren't published your not a real writer. Personally I've dropped the pursuit of agents as a waste of time and am looking at strictly ebooks.

Wynn Bexton said...

Gregory I appreciate this feedback. It's a long, lonely haul trying make it as a writer and when other 'writers' put you down and you are told you are 'not qualified' to join writer's organizations I think that is all wrong. Yes, more and more people are going to the ebooks, print on demand and publications by small presses these days. It's a bit of work distributing but you have to do all that promo these days with larger publishers anyway.

Gregory House said...

Yes I must admit to being doubtful about some writer's groups, are they there to help you or take adavantage of you? Anyway I did the maths in the antipodes on cost- benefit for tradtional vs epublishing and it weighed heavily in favour of digital. So very soon here I go.
ps thanks for following does the ego good

Darlene said...

Good article Ruth. If you are a writer, you are a writer - no matter what anyone else says or how much time you put into it. I work full time, I tutor ESL students at night and weekends and still find time to write. I consider myself a writer and have for some time now. I also went the e-publishing route intially and it has gone very well for me.

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks for the feed-back. Yes, I certainly think we do 'qualify' as being writers and the person that intimated to me that I may not be (because I couldn't get accepted into that big organization) probably doesn't have half the experience that I do (publishing or otherwise). I feel I don't need to belong to a big organization to prove to myself that I am. But I do find the smaller workshop groups useful - in particular the one I have been in since 1990 where I've workshopped my novel. And that didn't cost a dime to join!

Good luck with your publishing endeavours. I'm just beginning on that long road (for my novel).