It’s Work, People, Not A Hobby

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.

6 Responses to “It’s Work, People, Not A Hobby”

  1. 1 VK July 26, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Too true, Greg! I had a GF who thought the same thing about my writing–needless to say that didn’t last!


  2. 2 solargrrl July 26, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Hi Greg.
    Timely article. As a videographer and audio editor whose studio is at home, I’ve found the worst culprits of this phenomenon are family members. They know you are home and will call you at any time to ‘just chat’. It’s my job to set boundaries and educate them that, yes indeed, what I do is work and is no different than if I commuted to an office. Sadly, this lesson has to be reinforced many times. Sigh.
    Thanks goodness for answering machines.


  3. 3 Seamyst July 26, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Beautifully written.

    My blood-pressure skyrocketed in the reading of this. Being one that also works at home – lets just say that I relate.

    I re-posted this to my Facebook page as a link to this entry. I published it as both a Public Service Message — and a warning — to people that simply refuse to acknowledge such a simple truth.

    On behalf of all of those that work from home – thank you for writing this and giving us a voice. Now maybe the next time that someone believes that working from home means that I am sitting at home, watching TV and eating bonbons all day…I’ll be able to fight the urge and I won’t beat them over the head with my laptop.

    Or not.
    Time will tell.

    But your entry allowed the release of steam. So thank you, again.


  4. 4 John StCharles July 26, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    These words and sentiments express my feelings exactly. Most people do not take ‘writing’ seriously, either as an art-form or a craft. And they certainly do not even considered it within the realm of ‘profession’. And yes, I do believe this is because 90% of all functionally literate people do indeed consider themselves as “writers”, at least potentially. T’was ever thus, I suppose. jstc


  5. 5 Lori L. Lake July 27, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    OMG – you are SO right, Greg! I can’t believe how many people seem to think that I’m just lying around doing nothing all day. My mother told everyone I was “retired.” What??? Thanks for your comments. You made me laugh – and wince.


  6. 6 djacksonleigh July 29, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Well, said Greg. People just don’t understand the level of concentration, immersion required to construct a story and characters that ring true.


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