My career as an author…

Is it a career?

Maybe it would be if it paid my way through every aspect of my life. But many authors, both mainstream and indie, will tell you that earning enough to pay all the bills is extremely difficult.

If you are one of the lucky ones – well done, you. But for most of us, there has to be another income stream.

So – my writing life is perhaps not a career in the accepted sense.

Then is it a hobby? Absolutely not, because I earn income from it. My business cards say ‘writer’, not ‘hobbyist’. Besides, I hate the word ‘hobby’ – I have friends who are embroiderers of immense skill who don’t sell their work and their embroidery is a lifestyle choice. They live and breathe it. It’s not a ‘hobby’. My own embroidery could well be called a hobby though, because whilst it is, like gardening, something I enjoy and pursue with some dedication and it contributes greatly to my lifestyle, it is one or two steps down from the depth at which my friends pursue the artform and well below the intensity with which I pursue my writing.

I live and breathe writing. I go to bed at night thinking of what I’m writing until I settle on a thought-stream. I wake up with that thought-stream in my head. Trying to insert that in a narrative becomes the work for the day. As I walk the dog I’m mindful of body movement, sounds, light on water, cloud forms. That’s input which becomes output in my novels. If I’m with people, I observe body language, expressions, colour of skin, eyes, hair, wrinkles, gait, even conversation content. Again, it’s how authors work, it’s why they carry pens and notebooks of varying sizes and shapes constantly.

To discover a new type of embroidery silk in a unique shade is a wonderful thing. But to discover words that set bells chiming in one’s head is like mining diamonds. I just know how many authors and poets there are who would agree with me.

Does having a career as an author require a concrete amount of hours at the keyboard, or with pen and paper? In my case, yes and no. I write daily – in addition to writing a novel, I write journals, emails, blogs, research notes, and as indicated above … observations.

But what about ‘real time’ spent on one’s writing? Just lately I’ve been caught up in a cause.

Thinking and writing for and about that, and time spent talking to people in respect of it removes one almost completely from the creative writing process. It takes immense strength of will to say ‘Moving on…’. To shut the door on the cause for a day or a week and sink oneself back into one’s narrative. Once in, one can grasp the nuances of setting and character and pursue the plot and be content.

If writing was taken away from me today, I would probably be distraught. If I know one thing, it’s that I want to pursue the artform in one way or another until I am infirm in body and/or mind.

Maybe therein lies my answer.

Maybe that’s all it takes to make me a ‘career author’ after all.