Growing up, my parents always pushed me to pursue my passions. They knew long before I did that I would end up as a writer. They cultivated my love of books and encouraged me to study what I loved. In today’s society where degrees are more and more important to getting a job because of the competitive job market, it’s like a breath of fresh air to have such a support system that pushed me toward passion instead of “success”. My husband has always been the same way.
But now I exist in the real world, where people don’t understand how you can follow your dreams and do something you enjoy when you don’t appear to make any money. Where if you sit at home all day, people assume that you’re doing nothing with your life and spend all your time watching Netflix. Working from home or working for yourself “isn’t a real job”.
At my last job, when I worked part time, I was constantly asked what I did when I wasn’t working. When I answered that I was writing a book, people would say, “That’s cute.” or “What a fun hobby.” They didn’t understand that that’s what I wanted to do full time. They didn’t understand that that’s what I planned to do full time.
I have dedicated the past two years of my life to working on Powerful. Two years. Now, when you’re looking at professional jobs, there’s a standard amount of experience that people are looking for before you’re considered above an entry level. That’s two years. As a writer, I am no longer considered a beginner. I have spent two years working with other writers, connecting with agents and publishers, and actually writing. And what I’ve learned in those two years has been indescribable.
I look back at how I used to plot out ideas, how I used to write, and I laugh at how bad it is. Even as I’m editing, I look back at the last draft of my writing and giggle because I’ve learned so much. I learn from reading what others write, and I learn from letting people read what I write.
Example- I am TERRIBLE at writing descriptions. I’m also the reader who skims over big paragraphs of descriptions to get to the dialogue. In my own writing, the dialogue moves the action forward. But there still needs to be description, and I’m still learning how to incorporate that into my writing. Usually it means I add it in slowly in the later drafts because I can’t figure out how to include it when I initially write scenes.
And that’s okay. Being a writer means I don’t have to get it right the first time. And that’s part of why writing is so time consuming and why it’s taken me two years to write a novel.
How many writers out there have experienced friends demanding you edit a school paper for them “because you’re so good at it”? I still get it from my sisters. Now, I’m happy to help, but why is it that only when it benefits them, you’re a great writer?
Editors typically charge $40-$50 an hour for their services, or around $1,200 for an 80,000 word manuscript. I’m expected to provide these services for free for everyone I know. But when I say that I want to work on my own writing, I get criticized for being a writer? Because it’s a hobby. Except, seconds ago it was an incredible skill in high demand.
Not everyone can write. Not everyone can edit. Writing is a skill that takes patience and practice to develop, just like any other ability one would need to find employment and make a living.
My husband spent four years in school learning every skill he needs to find employment as an engineer. It’s what he loves doing, and he’s good at it, so he worked hard to make a living from it. But when I say that I’m taking classes online to become a certified editor, and that I spend my time working to refine my writing abilities, people think it’s strange.
It’s not strange! It’s the same thing! I have chosen a career, and now I’m working. It isn’t some hobby that I do to relax. Writing is not relaxing. I can’t emphasize that fact enough. Writing a novel is hard work. It takes skills, patience, and practice. It is an art form, like painting or playing the piano. Or graphic design, which is a seriously undervalued skill. I mean, there’s a huge difference between a quality book cover and something that a random person threw together.
Those are all valuable skills. Do not underestimate the value of the person behind those skills. And don’t assume because an artist or writer is self-employed or works from home that they don’t work. If anything, it takes more initiative and self-motivation to work from home and still get work done when there are so many more distractions here than in a professional environment.
And now comes the time where I turn it over to you people, my lovely readers. I need to know that I am not alone in this prejudice I am facing in my life. I want to hear your stories about overcoming judgments while building your skills and careers as writers, musicians, artists, whatever you are. We need to know that we are not alone. We need to let the world know that it is not okay to judge us based on what it appears that we do. You don’t judge a book by its cover, so don’t judge an artist by his or her career.
I do not sit at home and watch tv all day. I do not sit on Facebook all day. I #amwriting! I #amediting! I am working! This is a job!
— Hypergraphia (@alliemayauthor) March 14, 2017
Share your stories in the comments. It’s the only way to break the stigma about what we do.