Friday, January 21, 2011

This Writing Thing - Is it a Waste of Time?

First off, I'm not looking for a new career. I have one that I like just fine, and I'll retire in ten years anyway. I'm learning to write because I want to learn to write. And not just business letters or minutes (booooring!).

I want to be published as a kind of validation for having reached a certain level, being good enough. Graduating, if you will.

I'm getting older, and I love to learn new things. I don't want to be one of those senior citizens who sees the world through a very narrow filter, unwilling to consider new things. I want to always be teachable. I want to be creative and make something that brings me (and hopefully others) pleasure.

I've worried that as I've been spending hours and hours on it (not just on the writing itself, but on reading blogs about writing by authors or aspiring authors, listening to podcasts about writing, reading articles about things writers should and shouldn't do, attending writing conferences, etc.), that it's taking over my life.

And for what?

I'm very much a person who needs to have something to show for the time I've spent working on it. Even if it's just for me.

So it was interesting today to read a blog post by a guest writer for Natalie Whipple. Adam Heine talks here about a writer's education. He hits the nail on the head. I especially love this part:

... But what kind of job demands years of uncompensated service before giving you even a chance at wages?

All of them, it turns out. It's called college.

College is 4+ years of work that pays nothing and (these days) doesn't even guarantee a job at the end. That's exactly what we're doing when we sit at our computer, typing a story nobody may ever buy.

It's better than college, because it's free. Better because it's easier to hold a job while writing than studying. Better because if we don't get a job with our first degree (i.e. novel), we can write another and learn more...

So long as you live life, working to get published is as valid an education as any other.

Keep writing. It's your education.
Nice, Adam. Well said.


  1. Not to mention it's dang fun! :) I'm a big believer in fun. I'll do fun things for years on end whether I get compensated or not.

    That's why my undergrad was Theatre Arts. :)

  2. Duh! Of course fun. I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't fun. =D

  3. Love this.

    I was worried after the opening that you were already thinking of giving up. I was putting on my Batman cape ready to jump in here and stop the evil of rejection from putting you off your goal!

    It takes years of practice to become an accomplished liguistic, or musician, or tradie...etc etc. Why do some writers think this business owes them a publishing deal straight away?

    Write because you love it.

  4. Love your last sentence especially.

    Short. Succinct. And exactly right, as always, Donna.

  5. You make a good point, Donna and it's something I've thought about quite a bit, too.

    Writing can be quite a solitary thing and very personal and there are always moments of insecurity ('Oh my God, what will they think of it?' and 'Is it good enough or clichéd dross?' are just some of the things that have run through my mind on submitting work).

    So I guess you're right that we want to be published perhaps as some kind of validation. But the problem with that is it's largely out of our control once our story has been written and sent off.

    I like the theory that nothing is wasted. That every single word you write, even the bad ones, helps to build your writing experience and as long as you try to get better and look for ways to improve, you will.

  6. Ian, that out of control thing is something I'm learning about as I read about others' attempts to be published. It’s one aspect of this process--if what I'm really looking for is validation--that is different from going to college. If you go to college to get a degree, and you fulfill the requirements, you get your degree.

    Unfortunately with writing, you have to get an agent first.

    The right agent. The one who'll love your book and get out there and champion it and slay the evil dragons so it can see the light of day. Your book might be wonderful, but it could be that your timing is just off. A publisher might have bought it if it had been submitted two years ago ... or two years from now.

    So much that's out of our control.

  7. Wonderful post. I think, eventually, you get to a point where you realize you'll keep doing it anyway. At least I have. You also realize things like "I'll self publish this if I have to." At least I will (and I did with my first book!) At the end of the day, it's about creating the best book you can (with what skills you have right now) and trying to connect with other people through your thoughts and words. And learning...there is always more learning.

    Again, great post.

  8. Becky, it's a good thing I'm such a fan of that learning part. =D

    So you self published your first book. We'll need to talk. I've seriously considered doing that just to say I'm published. Is that cheating? The thing that scares me about being self published is how much marketing you have to do all by yourself.

    I hate sales--even when what I'm selling is really myself.

  9. i just got a few goosebumps. i loved that post and needed to read it. that adam fella is a smart guy. thanks for sharing!

  10. Isn't he? Makes me feel alot better about the time I'm spending and the money on books about writing that I keep buying. =D


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