Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Authors Don't Like Me

It’s taboo in writing circles to call writing a hobby. Needless to say, I’ve upset a few people in writing circles, but frankly, I’m not overly concerned because I think there are a lot of writer types who think too highly of themselves. What is wrong with calling writing a hobby?

I think the reason it is taboo is because so many people attend writer conferences and hear the so called experts tell them that they should view it as a business rather than a hobby. For tax purposes and expense purposes, I totally agree, but the reality of the situation is that if writing is a business, most writers are pretty lousy businessmen. It takes about three months to write a novel. The author then takes the manuscript and sends it off to a bunch of people, usually only to receive a rejection letter from some and no feedback at all from most. After having had the manuscript rejected, the typical author sits down and writes another and then another. After doing this a few times, a few of them actually get a contract from a publisher. But while they are doing this, they are also spending about $1,000 a year going to writer conferences. No business can survive if the owner keeps losing money. So, if the author is losing money, why keep going?

If instead of looking at writing as a business, we look at it as an activity that someone does for enjoyment, all that money they are dumping into it makes more sense. Of course, I say that while I have to report to Uncle Sam that I am making a profit from writing—very small, but a profit nonetheless. I don’t, however, make enough to quit my day job. I’m fine with that. I’m more than fine with that because there are aspects of my day job I enjoy as much or more than writing and I don’t have the stress of trying to live from my art. But when people view writing as something they do for enjoyment and to relieve stress, it makes sense to tell them to keep writing in the face of rejection. Someday, they may produce something that won’t be rejected and maybe it will turn into something other than a hobby, but until then, most authors should view it has a hobby.


Whitehawk said...

I'm jealous. I'm not making a profit and at the rate I'm going won't see one. My wife certainly sees my project as my hobby (a very expensive one.) I guess I've taken it too seriously. The only book I have written was a do-or-die conviction for me. I felt like God gave me a message. Anyway, the mandate is completed.

Something else about my experience that I think is different; I'm not that concerned about selling books. I just want one of them to fall into the right hands. My heart felt desire is to see an American Great Awakening in my lifetime. I am under no delusions of my writing ability but I feel like I have shared some truths that Americans need to hear.

The rest is in God's hands. Guess it all has been.

Best regards!

Timothy Fish said...


I think the right attitude is to focus primarily on getting what you have to say to the people who need to see it. And I don't think treating something as a hobby means we should take it any less seriously. There are some books that will never be profitable because they have such a small audience, but that doesn't mean they aren't important books. The writing hobbiest has the freedom to write these important books, while the occupational author must limit himself to those books that a publisher is willing to risk $40,000 to $50,000 on.