Then came the response at The Billfold, which said blah-blah something-something about how you can’t really make a living working as a writer because writer isn’t a job.
‘…but come the fuck on. Kafka, Dickens, Nabokov — they all had day jobs. Novelists have day jobs! Roxane Gay, who is busy and accomplished enough to be several people, still has a day job. Writers have day jobs because being a writer isn’t a job. Writing is a thing you can do if you like it! It’s a thing you might get paid for, now and again, if you’re good at it! But it’s not a job.’
*looks at self*
*looks at self writing*
*looks at self getting paid to write*
*looks at self getting paid to write full-time*
*looks at self inside writing shed which was paid for by writing full-time*
Writer is a job.
I almost feel like I should end it there.
WRITER IS A JOB, he yodels, then goes and writes.
Writing can be a career. It can be a hobby. An art form. A distraction. An exploration. Some get paid nothing to do it. Others, very little. Some make enough with it to do the work full-time. Sometimes “writer” is even a job title inside a company. If you work for a video game company, or for a movie studio, or for any kind of content creation company… nnyeah, yes, those people are writers. It’s real. They’re not unicorns. They’re not secretly mailroom attendants who were given the job title of ‘writer’ just to make them happy. Don’t diminish them. They are writers who write and they write for money. I get the point. I’m not saying you should quit your day job and expect the MONEY HOVERCRAFT to back up to your house and fire wads of cash into your garage with a cannon, but there’s money there. And occasionally, it’s very good money for the time you put in.
Being a writer does not mean you are also automagically at a job. Being a writer and making money does not mean it is your only job. I had a day job while freelance writing — until one day, I didn’t, because I was making enough as a writer. A lot of novelists and freelancers have day jobs, but that doesn’t mean writing fails to serve as a companion job. It’s like, just because I ate a meal at lunch doesn’t mean dinner does not also comprise a meal. If I have one child, I may also have a second one — the second one isn’t a pet or a robot. You can have two things. You can hold two truths. You can have more than one job, and writer can be part of your cabinet of professions.
No, it’s not easy. Duh. Obviously.
But a lot of jobs and careers are not easy to enter or maintain.
Most people can’t be film directors, or cartoonists, or professional bear inseminators. But there are those who can, and who do, and who get paid accordingly.
Writing is a job. And to suggest it’s anything other than that gives in to the persistent myth that writing is some kind of joy-fueled reward factory, where the writing alone is enough to feed itself. Where we pretend that starvation and sadness are implicit to the role, and that getting paid is so rare and so strange we can’t even call it a job or a career anymore. That’s dangerous. Starvation is not a requirement. Starvation is not sexy.
That’s not to say every writer must aspire to also make it their profession. It’s totally fine to do it as a hobby. No harm no foul if you do it just to do it, just as there’s no harm no foul if you inseminate bears just to do it.
*is handed a note*
Correction: you should not randomly inseminate bears. That is, according to my lawyer, “illegal.”
Point is, writing is a job.
It’s okay that’s it’s a job.
It’s okay when it’s not a job.
It’s okay that it’s a hard job.
It’s okay when you also have a day job.
It’s all fine.