The temptation to over-simplify secondary characters, especially bad guys, hits me every time I write…
How many hours a week do you work?
This is a question I’m asked often. I don’t mind. I’m curious about people’s jobs, too! The person always seems surprised when I tell them I work roughly fifty hours a week. The only conclusion I can come to, based on the frequency of the question and the surprise at the response, is that people assume being an author is not very time-consuming.
Being an author IS time-consuming.
Many writers have full-time jobs in addition to their writing careers. For some authors, writing is one of their part-time jobs. Others are stay-at-home parents fitting writing in around their children’s schedules. I was the latter for years. Trust me, it isn’t easy! For other authors, writing is a full-time job.
I now write full time, and I do not take the blessing of my open schedule for granted.
No matter what your schedule, if you’re an author, you’re sacrificing time and money to pursue this career. You are, essentially, your own boss.
What does being an author really mean?
- Authors are small-business owners. We keep track of our income and expenses. We buy our supplies. We determine where and when we work. We promote our products. We make decisions–and wonder if we’re making the right decisions–about our books. We plan, we budget, we write.
- Authors are self-motivated. We don’t have a boss breathing down our necks to get the words written, and we don’t have a weekly paycheck to motivate us, either. Some of the books we write are not contracted, meaning we might never make a dime off them. Retirement plans, 401K, and paid vacations are incentives that keep many employees committed to their jobs, but we don’t have those either. We write because it’s what we do. We know any retirement plan or vacation will be funded by us and us alone.
- Authors are marketers. We promote our work and network to get the word out about our books. We have websites and social media accounts, and whether we want to or not, we spend time adding content to keep readers informed and interested.
- Authors are creative. We find time to explore ideas, and if we don’t? The ideas hijack our showers, our walks, and our going-to-sleep routines. Well, ideas do that no matter what. We can’t really turn off the imagination, and we don’t want to!
- Authors are vulnerable. We care what readers think of our books. We feel bad when we get rejections. We compare ourselves to other authors and tell ourselves not to, but we can’t help it sometimes. We hit dry creative spells. We worry we’ll never meet our full potential. We fear something will break us, and we’ll quit writing for good. The idea of not writing depresses us more than you could ever know.
- Authors are generous. We want to help fellow writers. We love helping new writers. We share our knowledge, volunteer our time and energy and money to help other writers.
- Authors are hard on themselves. We feel guilty taking time off at Christmas or for a vacation. We always think we should be writing more–more pages, more words, more books. We see other authors and think we should be doing it like them. We wonder why we can’t get it together and write more, promote harder, build the career we want. We struggle to celebrate the process. We lose sight of how far we’ve come in our quest to get where we’re going.
- Authors are in-tune to the human condition. In order to write characters readers will actually care about, we have to care about what makes life wonderful and tragic and beautiful and ugly. We see the world around us, and we process it through our characters. We learn while we write. We grow with each story.
I love being an author. I’m grateful and humble that I’m blessed with a life that allows me to write full-time (the credit goes to my husband, who has supported me for years). I hope you have as much joy in your work as I do in mine.
What did I miss? What else does it mean to be an author?
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