Apparently, I’m not a real writer. And I’m guessing you’re not, either.

Hile, inklings!

Tonight, I have opinions. And they will not be silent. You’ve received fair warning.

A couple of authors I follow on Twitter — namely, John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig — led me to this article by Lisa Morton, Vice-President of the Horror Writers Association, in which she expounds upon the difference between a professional writer and a “hobbyist.”

What a terrible, long sentence. My apologies. But I’m letting it stand, because I’m not a real writer anyway, and I probably don’t know any better.

Okay, okay, so that level of snark on my part is a bit uncalled for. (Maybe.) Especially since Ms. Morton isn’t calling me a “fake” writer (as opposed to a “real” one). She’s acknowledging that I’m a writer, just not a professional. Well, I kinda take umbrage at that.

Morton lists ten questions, which, according to her, a writer must answer with “yes” in order for her to consider that person a pro. In her graciousness, she will “cut you a little slack and say you can get off with 80% and still call yourself ‘professional’.” Please note that this is a direct quote in which Morton has her closing quotation marks in the wrong place. But who’s counting.

She also warns that if you scoff at her questions, she will consider you a hobbyist, and you are not to call yourself “professional” in her presence.

No. I’m not even kidding.

I know nothing about Lisa Morton personally. Until tonight, I’d never even heard her name before. Yes, there are places in this post where I’m pointing out her incorrect punctuation and grammar (still to come), but I have nothing against her personally. But her tone and word choices sound elitist to me, and as a writer (whose level of professionalism is tbd), I feel the need to speak out against it. Because it’s bad form, y’all.

Anyway, back to the questions. Or, as Morton puts it, “onto the questions.” (She really means “on to.”)

Lisa Morton’s 10-Question Acid Test of Writerly Professionalism (I just made that up.) and My Answers

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

No. My home is messy because I have a 10-month-old and cleaning is low on my priorities list.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

No. When I get the chance to go out with friends sans baby, I jump at said chance because if I don’t, I will go bat guano crazy.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?

Rarely. For the last several months, TV has been the only way I can unwind, and if I try to write instead, I just fall asleep.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

Yes.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites [sic] (either research or networking potential)?

No. I haven’t been on vacation in 4 years because I can’t afford it.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No. I don’t enjoy discussing the business of writing. I do enjoy discussing the craft of writing and will do so happily at any given opportunity. However, I will not do so to the exclusion of chatting with a good friend, because I love my friends (both writers and non-writers) and care about maintaining my relationships.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?

Sort of. Before I had a baby, I spent 4 years at a job that paid no money at all at the time: writing.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

I don’t understand this question. Does this mean I should think my current home isn’t nice? If I do think my current home is nice (which I do), how does that automatically mean I don’t have a professional mindset?

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Since I’ve answered only one question so far with “yes,” I guess the answer to this one is “no.”

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Is this a question about suicidal tendencies?

One out of ten. I don’t even score as “pro” within the bounds of Morton’s gracious 80%. The thing is, even if I weren’t devoting most of my time to keeping a baby healthy, whole, and happy — even if I were at my previous writing “level” of 5-8 hours per day instead of 2 hours per week — even if that were the case, I’d still only score as “hobbyist” in Morton’s eyes.

Not that it matters. As I stated above, I don’t know Morton, and I never heard of her until today. I have nothing against her personally — but neither do I care about her opinion or her classification of me. Her scoring system isn’t the be-all, end-all of whether or not someone is a professional writer. Her scoring system is a subjective description of her own process and her view of her own writing career. As far any other writer is concerned, it’s a moo* point.

The end of the matter is, there’s really only one thing that distinguishes a professional writer from a hobbyist. A professional writer gets paid for writing. BOOM. If you get paid for writing, you’re a professional writer. That’s it.

Morton’s list is elitist and exclusionary. It keeps people out — when what needs to happen is that we writers band together and invite each other in. We need to challenge the darkness individually and collectively. We need to form a tribe that affirms and reaffirms and assures and reassures. As my friend and fellow indie author Bernard Schaffer writes,

“We all learn together, share our information, and support one another’s endeavors, including stepping in and saying when someone is doing something they shouldn’t. …Be a member of the community and support it, both financially and socially, and it will support you back.”

~from The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing

Designing a test to see who’s pro and who isn’t does nothing more than exclude those who need a tribe’s support the most. And if those people are consigned to the outer regions where “hobbyists” apparently dwell, there’s little chance they’ll ever discover motivation for “becoming professional.”

As for me? Well, I’m not earning the big bucks, that’s for sure. My books were selling well enough to make a car payment, but summer sales are down. So at least I’m contributing something to the grocery budget. Once I get my WIP finished and published, I have every confidence that at least a few more car payments will be in my future. ; )

Hi. My name is Courtney Cantrell, I get paid for writing, and I am not a hobbyist.

___________________

* “It’s a moo point. …It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter…it’s moo.”

~Joey Tribbiani,
“Friends”

Insert Maniacal Indie Author Here

In this video, I talk about:

  • getting my first royalties check
  • doing something very stupid
  • writerly emo-panic
  • Consortium Books, my indie publisher
  • and itchy noses.

There is maniacal cackling, as well as much rejoicing.

Sometimes, the two are even related.

At the end of my video, I invite you to share thoughts in the comments section below. Let me repeat that invitation: Come talk to me in the comments! If you think I’m ridiculous, please at least tell me. After all, if no one tells me, I can’t know that I’m ridiculous; thus I am doomed to remain forever ignorant of my laughable plight.

Thank you in advance. ; ) Also, if this got you curious to read my novel, Colors of Deception, then do please click that link and buy the book. $12.99 paperback, $2.99 for Kindle.

Let’s talk!

The One Where I Get Paid for Writing

Brain sludge. YUM!

Once upon a time, I got a job as a writer.

I was eight months out of college, and I’d spent a season working retail at a place that sold educational materials for children.

The stocking of shelves!

A gripey assistant manager!

A customer-cheating boss!

SHRINK-WRAPPING!!! 
 

My mind felt like sludge at the bottom of a duck pond.

Waking Up to the Nightmare

I needed to write.

I also needed a job.

Ergo, getting a job as a rep in a mortgage company’s correspondence department seemed like a dream come true.

But in the reality of this once-upon-a-time fairy tale, I wasn’t writing anything I wanted to be writing. My job consisted of answering written inquiries from mortgagors.

Late charge disputes.

Payment histories.

Amortization schedules.

Grammatically incorrect form letters.

: (

Usually, I could answer the letters in writing. But sometimes, when the call center couldn’t handle the volume of incoming calls, I had to talk to (irate) mortgagors on the phone. My supervisors called this “jumping into the queue.”

For me, it was jumping into spider-infested quicksand.

That was my first experience getting paid to write.

Living the Dream

Yesterday, I had my second experience getting paid to write.

This experience was much more pleasant than the first.

You see, my dear inklings, yesterday I received my first royalties check for my novel, Colors of Deception.

Please, allow me to repeat that.

Yesterday I received my first royalties check.

Yesterday I received my first royalties check.

Yesterday I received my first royalties check.

That just sounds so darn pretty.

I’ll Show You Mine…

I’m plotting a video post for this coming Thursday, in which I shall talk about:

  • the thrill of finding that check in my mailbox
  • the terror of can-I-do-it-again?
  • and the transparency and vulnerability of one indie author (that’s me).

I’d show you a picture of the check, but my camera seems to be non-functional at present. So come back on Thursday and see it on video! I’ll even Show & Tell how much it’s for!

Until then:

Have you gotten paid for writing?

What kind of writing? Creative? Technical? Journalistic?

If you’re an income-generating blogger, what was your first-time-paid experience?

Come talk to us, people. Share the joy, and share the writing love!