Why A Goat?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What is the difference between writing for a living and working for a living while writing?

There's the time factor, for one. If you write for a living, you don't worry about finding the time to write, because if you don't write, you don't get paid. If you support your writing with a "regular" job, then you have to decide how to prioritize your writing. It can be anything from an enjoyable hobby to the equivalent of trying to get your own business off the ground.

Writers who have made the jump to supporting themselves through their writing face challenges, but I'm not one of them…YET, so I'll confine myself to what it's like to work for a living while writing.

There's no time to do anything. I even resent the time it takes me to go to the bathroom, so I end up dehydrated all the time. Being a writer requires you to be aware of life and people and situations and trends. Being an unpaid writer means you don't have time to watch the news, or go shopping, or any of the normal things that most people consider part of life. So you have to find a way to balance being stuck on the computer during all your non-working hours and keeping up with being a regular person.

Writers aren't really regular people anyway. We're always analyzing things, especially other people. Psychiatrists analyze other people, but they only have to do it during their office hours. Writers go out to eat and spend the entire meal ignoring their date to listen to the couple at the next table. "That's some good dialogue." "This would make a good scene." "I wonder how this got started." Before the end of the meal, act one is already forming in our heads.

It kind of makes you wonder where the inspiration for that famous scene in "When Harry Met Sally" came from.

In addition to the usual schizophrenia, unpaid writers have to go to work and deal with reality for eight hours every day. My job involves a lot of math and attention to detail. Fortunately, as a writer, I've developed obsessive attention to detail. I got two raises in my first six months at this job (I've been there 9 months now) just because of this trait. But because there is so much to pay attention to and because the work is non-stop, I don't have any time in which to work on my scripts.

I can't even do that pre-planning at work: you know, those periods of down time where your mind can turn to your latest project and work out a few kinks. I can't do that at work because my work demands such close and constant attention.

I know people who review scripts at work. I know people who write scripts at work. How lucky are they? I sit at one desk out of four in a small room and everybody can see what I'm doing every minute of the day. When I'm at work, I don't have a choice. I have to work.

Last year I got into a situation where I was on disability for 9 months. I'm not really disabled, but I can't do a lot of walking at my job any more. I got a doctor's note and told them I could do a desk job, but the company was going under and there was a layoff coming up anyway, so they terminated me and the state was kind enough to pay me for most of a year. I got a taste of what it's like to not have to balance writing with a job for a paycheck.

It was nice.

It was really nice.


  • At 9:23 AM, Blogger Webs said…


    Why "Why a goat"?

    Also, you ought to toggle on the captcha requirement for comments or you're going to attract comment spam.

  • At 6:23 AM, Blogger GameArs said…

    Writing for a living sounds good to me.

  • At 7:34 AM, Blogger Mim said…

    It's so nice to have "fans." Thanks for posting, guys.

  • At 11:29 PM, Blogger mernitman said…

    to be paid for writing is one of the great pleasures in life... (and oddly enough, most paid writers spend a good portion of their "off" time complaining about it. go figure)
    neat post.

  • At 10:19 AM, Blogger Mim said…

    Thanks for the comment, Billy. I'm starting to feel like a real blogger.


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