Do you consider writing as your career?
This question is lifted from author Sahar Sabati's informative Ask an Author series, which ran from 2015-2016 and included responses and reflections from English-speaking authors from around the globe. Since I'm often asked these questions by readers, I have republished my answers here with Sahar's kind permission.
This is a great question because the way it’s phrased is interesting: Do you consider writing as your career? To me, this implies there might be some other option, a notion I find intriguing. Last year, I was invited to read at the local library with a number of other writers, and after the readings there were a few minutes remaining for the audience to ask questions. One of the questions, asked of all the authors, was what did we did for a living? Hang on, we were all writers? Why was it assumed that we would also have other jobs? It made me wonder if writing isn’t considered a sufficient occupation to be someone’s career. Or perhaps the person asking the question—a librarian—had an understanding of just how difficult it is to make a living as a writer nowadays. Perhaps the real question she was asking was ‘how do we sustain our writing?’ As it turned out, my colleagues all maintained other jobs. Did that then mean they were not ‘career’ writers? They love writing, writing before work, in their coffee breaks, on the train home. Their willingness to squeeze their writing in between their paid work commitments makes them every bit career writers in my book. In my case, I’m fortunate to have a partner who sponsors my literary endeavours, but that in itself creates problems around the validity of my work. This is because writing is a stay-home, bum-on-your-seat kind of career. People assume that because I’m at home, whatever I’m doing can’t be that important; they can ask me to feed their cat, or pop in unannounced and stay a few hours* because this writing-thing of Lee’s is just a glorified hobby really, isn’t it? Yes, she’s written a few books, had a couple of stories published and fluked a few awards, but it’s not like it’s a real job. Well, yes it is; writing is my career. I work full-time at it, and I’ve being doing it for years now. While none of my works are bestselling, Graeme Norton isn’t clamouring to interview me, and I have yet to make a living wage from my efforts, I’m committed to being a writer. And if I’m not quite there yet, then I’m going to ‘fake it, until I make it’, doing everything as if I were already everyone’s favourite must-read author, because, you never know, one day I might just wake up and find that I am.
*Actually, people are always welcome to pop in on the understanding that any who outstay their welcome will be killed off in my next novel…