By Greg Herren
Nothing drives me crazier than the mentality people have that because I work at home I have nothing but free time.
“Oh Greg, I need you to do this favor for me” and so on and so forth–because you know, when you make your living as a writer and work at home, everyone just seems to assume that you really spend most of the day with your thumb up your ass, sitting on the couch eating bon-bons and watching Oprah. I know part of this is my own fault; my inability to say no to people and put my foot down and say, “Um, do I ever ask you to take time off from work to do something for me?” I think it is enormously frustrating, to say the least, the way the vast majority of people never take ‘writer’ seriously as work. I think it has something to do with the mentality that every single person out there who can either read or write the English language thinks they, too, can write a book, if they only had the time–little do they realize that once you do decide to take the time to write a book, everyone in the world thinks you’re now available to do errands for them–or to do this or do that, or just sit around bullshitting on the phone.
It is enormously frustrating, as I am sure you can imagine, because writing actually is work. It requires time, focus, and discipline—and it is endlessly annoying to have people act like it’s a hobby.
When people now say to me, “Oh, I have always wanted to write a book,” whereas before I would smile and say ‘that’s nice’–now I say, “so why don’t you?” And then, as they offer up a thousand and one reasons as to why they don’t, I just smile and say, “Then I guess you don’t REALLY want to write one.”
When I work on the one of my series novels, which are told in the first person, I have to go inside Chanse’s (or Scotty’s) head and write from his point of view; not mine. I have to think like he does, I have to see the world the way he does, I have to make sure that everything that he says is his, and not mine. I have to remember everything that has happened, not only in the manuscript so far, but in the previous books. (Because people are more than happy to point out continuity errors.) I have to figure out where the story is going, and take it there.
And when I have to go weeks (or days) between working on it, I then have to go back and reread everything I have written so far, otherwise there will be massive continuity errors. This requires focus, and yes, discipline, so then to have someone get pissy because I don’t want to talk on the telephone in the middle of this process, or drop everything and run to the store, or whatever, it makes me want to just take a baseball bat and then beat them to death.
This is why I also turn down all those wonderful offers from people to write for free…because of course, my time is worth nothing. Sure, when you are first getting started, you should write for everywhere that will let you, regardless of whether they can or will pay you for the work; because its important to get publishing credits, so that other venues that do pay will take you seriously. And once you crossover into the getting paid category, you should never do anything for free again–unless it’s a favor for a friend, or something for a fundraising effort, or something like that–but you are not required to do that, either, and if a friend gets pissy because you won’t write something for them for free, well, then maybe they aren’t as good a friend in the first place as you thought.
No matter what anyone thinks, writing is work, and you need to look at it that way—even when everyone you know in the world acts like it isn’t.
And the next time someone bothers me with something stupid while I am working, I can’t be held responsible.
Just hope they have health insurance.