One of the biggest struggles I have in terms of my writing career is helping people to understand exactly what I do for a living. When I was a kid, I had dreams of becoming a “writer” – dreams I put on the shelf the moment I realized I didn’t have a fictionally creative bone in my body.
I didn’t realize I could really write until a few years ago. A friend had casually introduced me to one of the web’s many user generated content sites and I started submitting articles for a few dollars here and there. After that, I experimented with an Elance account. Imagine my surprise when one of my first clients sent me a message offering me regular, ongoing work. What started out as a few hours of work per week quickly grew into a full-time career.
Bye bye, desk job.
I have the same problems other freelance writers have. I have time-management issues and I have family members who don’t understand that writing is a full time job. While I’m willing to accommodate some people (like my Grandmom when she needs a ride to see her doctor, or my pregnant sister-in-law with the flu), I really can’t spend all day running errands and doing things during the time I should be – get this – working.
That’s not my main problem, though. My main problem is getting the people I know and love to understand exactly what it is that I’m doing. I need them to understand that what I do has a scope much larger than writing fiction novels for paperback rights.
When I tell people that I am a writer, they ask what I write. I watch as their eyes glaze over the second I start talking about web content and blogging. I can tell that they don’t “get” why I wouldn’t just “write a book” and “publish it” and “make lots of money.”
I can tell they don’t realize that every single thing they read on a daily basis is created by some sort of writer – whether her name is on the page or not. Writers, to them, write books. Period. End of statement.
The reality of the situation is that there are hundreds upon thousands of people in the world who want to write for a living. Many of them will publish books – fiction or non – but many of them will not. They’ll spend days, months, and years scribbling away only to struggle to find a market later on. They may make money. They may not.
I’m not one of those people. I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start with a fiction novel. Instead, I choose (for now) to put my fingers to the keyboard and create articles, blog posts, eBooks, eReports, and sales copy for business owners with needs. I am happy to give them content that will help them to take their businesses to the next level and, when compensated properly, I don’t mind that my name does not appear on the page. I pick and choose my projects to ensure I am able to pay my bills.
The other day I got a long, rambling email from a distant family member chiding me for not taking ghostwriting gig I had been offered. I should start by stating that he had misread the offer (as I wrote about it). A Malaysian “publisher” had offered me $80 (that is eighty dollars) to write a 40,000 word eBook. He misread the post and thought I had been offered $80,000 (eighty thousand dollars). He rambled on about how he couldn’t write if he wanted to and how he wanted to live vicariously through me. Others jumped on the band wagon and told me that I should take the deal and write the book “for experience.” Others simply told me to write my own book and grab up the “paperback rights.”
And then it hit me.
It’s just like my estranged cousin said. They want to live vicariously through me. They want to be able to say that they know a writer. They think they know what “writers” are and they think I’m doing it all wrong.
That said, I have news for all of my family members and friends – the same news I hope you’ll share with your family members and friends, and with anyone else who gives you a hassle because they think the writing world is as simplistic as the movies make it out to be:
I am a writer, whether my name appears on the page or not. I may never write a best-selling novel, and I’m OK with that.
And I’m happy.
Deborah Dera is a full-time professional writer specializing in personal finance, credit repair, loans, car insurance, education, writing, blogging, search engine optimization, and more. She’s the founder of Write on the Edge and offers unique content creation solutions to businesses looking to build their online brands.