Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Working Writer

So, I've decided to take this gig seriously. I'm never going to be completely comfortable calling myself a writer, no matter how much I write, until, well . . . I don't know exactly when that will be. I've been published, so that's not the magic bullet. Perhaps there's some big milestone that will do it for me (publishing my second novel?) or perhaps it will be a gradual accumulation of things, little rocks piled up on top of each other to eventually create a mighty wall. I guess I'll know it when I see it.

Until then, I'll occasionally refer to myself as a writer in conversation or on some non-tax form, but I'll be doing it with the same level of aplomb that I exhibit when I lie. (I am a great liar, you know. Sometimes, I lie without even thinking, and then spend time later wondering to myself, "Why on earth did I tell that real estate agent that I was pregnant?")

But back to the writing, and the taking of it seriously. I have been writing or working on my writing every single day for weeks and weeks, and more often than not for months and months. And intermittently for year and years. What does it mean that I'm now doing it for real?

I have a nifty spreadsheet, where I'm tracking all my submissions. I have another nifty spreadsheet (thanks again, Paul!) where I'm tracking my expenses. I have a new file box with neatly organized project files, budget files, and mailing supplies. I have a sort of business plan, or at least a revenue goal and schedule in place to try to meet the goal.

Upon the advice of several inspirational professional writers, I am sticking to a schedule of working on stories, essays, and the submission of stories and essays one week a month, and concentrating on my novel-in-progress the remaining three weeks each month.

So far, it's all working very well and I'm feeling -- dare I say it? -- increasingly professional. Sometimes, saying something over and over really does make it true.


  1. If you work over 500 hours on writing in a year, it's no longer considered a hobby, but a profession.

  2. I'm thinking more of what it will mean to me to feel like a writer, and I'm not sure there's an arbitrary measure for that.

    As far as the IRS is concerned, I hadn't heard the 500 hours rule (interesting!) though I have heard of guidelines involving profitability.

    Still, for me, I'm not sure if it's a financial milestone I'm looking for, or a more personal one. A particular type of publication? An award? Who knows? Hopefully, I'll find out one day!


  3. Hey, congratulations on taking the leap. It's a scary one!

  4. Sounds awfully organized to me.
    I created a spreadsheet, too, and I put in it the two stories that I felt publishable and the 4 magazines I sent them to. After they were rejected, I gave up. Because I'm not a writer. I'm a preacher who plays with words in her spare time. A real writer would have kept going. Which is what you are doing. So i think you've absolutely passed the "hobby" status.

  5. http://www.scribesworld.com/windycityrwa/misc/Taxes.pdf

    It took me a little while to find it since I didn't book mark it. My bad. It's an interesting short article. The 500 hours is material participation in a business activity. It determines whether you have a passive or active interest in the activity. Passive losses are restricted to the amount of passive gain, but do carry forward and I believe can carry back. So if you are over 500 hours you can deduct your losses over any income, not just passive. The most common.... Sorry the accountant in me just rears it's ugly head from time to time and takes over the keyboard. I fear writing something about fraud or an accountant because I don't think I can stop from sounding like an accountant. :)

    I realized you were stating your intent to be a writer and that it wasn't about the IRS or anything else that mundane but it brought to mind that article. I think it adds to the creative experience when you openly admit that you are trying to write something that you would, at least try, to get publish. It's nice to have a definition in that part of your life. :) I know I talk too much.

  6. Never! You're a writer, after all!

    Thanks for the link.

  7. Thanks, Andi! You would know. And, I'm not sure I could ever do what you've done. I'm doing more personal essays and, of course, fiction. All narrative stuff. But I've always very much admired your professionalism and success at starting your own writing business.

    PPB, I disagree with you, but who am I to say? If you don't want to be a writer, then no one will make you, but, 1) I've read your writing and, sometimes, it's just stunning. Also, 2) Sermon writing is too writing. Regular, creative, important writing.