Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is It a Job, or Isn't It?

By Jaime Samms (Guest Blogger)

When can an author definitively claim, "I am a writer." This is my job, this is what I do for a living? Is it when you get that first contract? First royalty statement? When you use royalty earnings to pay the first bill, buy the first birthday gift, make X number of dollars? When you have made enough to pay taxes on that income?

Let's face it, monetary reimbursement isn't always a good indicator of talent or even success.

Everyone measures success differently, after all, and only our indulgent, consumer-based society has placed the definition of that word squarely in our quarterly financial statements. Success on an emotional, spiritual or intellectual level usually has very little to do with our bank accounts. At least, that's so for me, and I'm not just saying that because there's often very little in my bank account, either. My sense of fulfillment rarely has anything to do with my financial solvency :)

As for talent, let's talk about Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh painting Starry Night

The artist who created Starry Night died a little-known pauper, having only ever sold one painting in his entire life. Now a single painting of his costs millions of dollars. Maybe I can count myself successful when I can afford to buy one of his paintings with my royalties. No one could doubt me then. Hopefully, not even I could doubt me then.

So maybe you measure by the number of words written, the number of releases or sales, or by your first novel, your first book in print. It's so hard to tell.

I've logged thousands and thousands of words over the years. Many have been published. Most haven't and never will be. I have novels published and books in print. And yet, at the end of the day, can I call myself a writer? I do have a day job correcting people's tax returns. The spectacular irony there is that I'm one of the best clerks in my department and I have never in my life filled out my own tax return. So can I really call myself a tax expert, either?

Back to Van Gogh, he spent some time in his life as a missionary and as an art broker. I wonder, if I could ask him now, what he would say to the question "What do you do?" Would he say "I'm a missionary." or "I'm an art broker." Or would he simply answer; "I paint."

pensil and paper

I know for sure how I would answer that question. "I write." It's what I do, it's as natural as breathing, as deep in my soul as loving and hating.

So. Is it a job? Or is it

What do you do? How do you define yourself? Does your job make your soul sing?

Find out more about me on my website, my blog and join me on facebook and twitter:

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Interested in what I write? Check a new release: Finder's Keepers

All his life, Rory Sanders just wanted please the people he loves and always thought he failed, until the day Gabriel Stark rescues him from Kane's abusive hand--and Rory's own misconceptions of what it means to be submissive.Cover art for Finder's Keepers

His search for a way into the world that lets him live out his need to serve others has left Rory Sanders estranged from his family and without a lot of friends. When he meets Kane, he thinks his dreams have come true. Those dreams are shattered when he discovers Kane is less interested in his submission than his total subjugation and humiliation. Unable to figure out how to please Kane, Rory is left in a dangerous and humiliating position, bound and helpless in a fetish club where he at last meets people who understand.

Gabriel Stark is not only the private investigator called in to figure out who Kane is and why he has been abusing submissive men, he's also a professional Dom and the man of Rory's dreams come to life. It remains to be seen if Gabe can overcome his own losses and mistakes and be the Dom Rory needs, or if he will let his own past be the ruin of yet another submissive who needs his help. That Rory is physically, emotionally, and intellectually everything Gabe has been looking for only makes Gabe more determined not to get emotionally invested in Rory's recovery.

Keeping Rory safe from Kane might be more than Gabe can manage on his own, and the result of failure could cost the submissive his life.


Janice Seagraves said...

With one book published, I now tell people I'm a writer.

My husband and I just filed our income tax returns and I had my own W2 from my publisher to file along with my hubby's. I did feel like a writer then, lol.


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Jaime,

Welcome to Beyond Romance!

"Is it a job?" and "Am I a writer?" are two separate questions, I think. You can be a writer and never be published, or never make any money at all. The question of it being a "job" has to do with commitment and regularity, as well as getting at least some financial recompense. Do you devote a certain amount of time, regularly, to writing? To promotion? Do you treat writing as a profession? Or as a hobby?

I think it's perfectly fine (and a lot easier) to be a writer and NOT have it be a job. Sometimes all the work can chip away at the joy.

Debby said...

There are many job where you could be considered a professional and not be making your living at it. I don't think that should be the guidline. If you write a book and it is published, you are a writer. I love how your book sounds. debby236 at att dot net

Pat McDermott said...

Hi Jaime. IMHO, if you write, you're a writer. I've been writing for years and have a few books under my belt, but I couldn't live on the proceeds. Yet I continue to write every day because I can't not write, and yes, putting words together just so makes my soul sing. Best of luck with your own writing, and congrats on the new release.

Catriana S. said...

My opinion? You're a 'writer' if you write. A professional writer is one who is published, gains a certain income, knows the ropes, has experience with the 'work field' etc.

I think calling it a 'job' takes the fun out of it. It can be both, especially if you make a decent chunk of change, but in the end, I believe it's how the individual feels, there's no set standard.

It also depends on what 'job' means to someone. Some equate 'job' to 'chore', which I disagree with. You can enjoy your job, it can give you fulfillment and the word not be a burden, depending on how you view it. To me, making a living doing what I love to do is my 'dream job', and not at all something I'd view as a chore or something that could potentially lose its value or interest to me because it is a job.

I hope that made some sense, lol.

Jude Mason said...

Hi Jamie, Lisabet,

Two very slippery, slippery questions. As Lisabet said, I've always been a writer. I was a dreamer first, then I wrote the dreams down on paper. I became an author when my first book was published. Now whether I was a good writer is another question. I work at it.

As for is it a job? For me it is. I get up, I shower, dress, get coffee and I go to the computer. I spend hours at this 'jog', whether it's promoting myself, blogging about the books I write, re-writing, even dreaming of my characters is part of my 'job'. I earn enough to make life easier for my husband and myself. I couldn't live off what I make, but at the moment, we couldn't live off what hubby makes either. We're a two income family.

Another question would be, am I a professional? Do I follow the rules, the guidelines of the various publishing houses or websites, or magazines? Do I know the ropes and work to follow them?

You betcha. And it's an ongoing process. There is always more to learn. It's a great job!


Jaime Samms said...

I have to say I agree with what most people have said. If you write, you're a writer.

Janice, I remember filing that first tax return with a royalty income in there. It made it feel a little more real, for sure. Congrats on your first book.

Thanks for having me, Lisabet, You're so right about the work chipping away at the joy. And I think that's happened to more than a few writers I know. Definitely unsettling when I see it happening. Makes me wonder if I will be in their shoes one day. I hope not!

Thanks for the kind words, Debbie :) Being published was one of my goals. Now that it's happened, there's always another goal to reach.

Thanks, Pat. Best of luck to you, as well. I hope you continue to enjoy what you do :)

I agree a job doesn't have to be a chore, Catrina. Though sometimes, even this writing gig can make me a little crazy. :)

Jude, you are so right. Always more to learn. Always a reason to "Show up and do your part" as Elizabeth Gilbert would say :)

Lauralyn said...

I have two careers, writer and mom. I say I'm a writer, but the odd thing is I really feel like a mom first. I think that mom label sort of burned away everything else, and it will stick, hopefully, long after all the other things I've done disappear.

While I definitely call myself a writer now, it took me until about published book ten to get up to speed on that. It makes me feel very lucky. I still pinch myself.

Jaime Samms said...

ZAM, I hear ya on the mom thing. That does seem to overshadow a lot of other issues. I stopped worrying so much about work when my kids came along. Now, it's a juggling act to get the writing and the mom time in. My kingdom for a time machine!

I still wonder if this is real, some days, or if I'm going to wake up and realize it's time to stop playing around...

Anonymous said...

Intriguing post, Jaimie. I'm sure we've all asked ourselves whether we are "real" writers, and whether we can honestly describe what we do as a job if we can't afford to give up the non-writing job that pays the bills. I usually answer "What do you do?" in 2 words: write and teach. (The 2nd one is the day job.)

- Jean Roberta

Jaime Samms said...

It's interesting, I find, that so many of us define ourselves as writers and have jobs completely separate from that that are outside how we think of ourselves.

Unknown said...

I consider myself an "author." As I look at the shelves above my desk and see copies of the books I've written, I can proudly say I've surpassed being a writer at this point. I've written all my life, but contracted work gives credence to my belief that I have talent. Now if I could just convince someone else. :)

Jaime Samms said...

LOL. Ginger, I'd say you've convinced someone, if you've got those books to show for your efforts :) Congratulations.

Cheryl said...

Great post. I began calling myself a writer the day I enrolled in the "Breaking into Print" program at Long Ridge Writers Group and I never stopped. It's the intention behind what I do, not how many books I sell or how many of my articles have professional bylines.

I consider the marketing aspect of writing a job, but the creativity is just plan fun.

Best of luck in all you do,


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