Thursday, July 30, 2009

Working Writers and Oxymorons

By Nichole Giles

Lately, it seems to me like the terms working and writing become more and more of a contradiction. First, when you tell someone you have work to do, and then sit down to start a chapter or edit a book—they automatically assume that your work can wait while you write. (Because, as we all well know, writing isn’t actually working, right? Or is it?)

Thus, these same people have trouble understanding why making a word count or chapter conclusion goal is a pressing matter. (And while we’re at it, can’t we just whip that thing out and be done with it?) Says the person, “You can’t drop what you’re doing to babysit extra kids? But…you’re home. It’s easy to babysit while you write since you aren’t actually doing anything.”

Or are you?

Do we treat our writing as work? I think in order to actually do much of it, we have to. There will be times when we have to feel like the bad guy and actually say, “No, I’m sorry, I have work to do,” when someone asks to infringe on our precious writing time. And though the feelings of extended family members or close friends may be hurt, or misunderstandings ensue, at some point it becomes a necessity for us to stand our ground.

Just because some people perceive our writing as a fun hobby doesn’t mean that’s all it really is. For most of us, writing is a calling, a life path, and hopefully, someday, a career.

But how do we make those around us understand our need to write? This absolute hunger that eats away at our hearts and brains to tell stories in the way only we can?

I think first we have to convince ourselves. This is why it’s important to set aside specific times to write, and treat those times the same way we’d treat a job, sport practice, or other regular commitment. It may take some adjustment, and will definitely require some sacrifice from us and our families, but in the end, if we keep at it, the rest of the world will come to understand that writing is work—and that it requires love and dedication, as does any other job in the world.

That doesn’t mean you won’t still be asked to give up your time, but perhaps people will be understanding when you have to tell them no.

I believe this, and yet, find it hard to say the words writing and working in the same sentence. Because while writing really is a lot of work, most of the time it’s so enjoyable or massages such a need that it really feels more like recreation.

Are the words ‘working writer’ an oxymoron for everyone or is it just me? And if it really is that, then why do I so often avoid it, only to give up sleep so I can give into the need?

Hey, I never claimed to be normal. Working or not, I’m a writer. Yes, I am.


David J. West said...

Hey Nichole.

I call it work and I always say, I got work to do. Deadlines equal work!

And sorry not related, can we get added to the LDS publishers list? Thanks

Nichole Giles said...

Hi David,

Good for you that you are already in that habit. That's awesome.

I've never heard of Wido Publishing. I'll go check it out and see that it gets added. Thanks.


Keith Fisher said...


Thank you for your post you hit me on the head . . . I mean you heit the nail on the head.

Yes I am like you. when I am writing and drafting It feels like flying over rainbows tasting the joy of inspiration or the skittles that are in the rainbow.

When I have to edit and make sese of what I've written it is most definatly work. (that is spelled wrong but I'm tired of editing) :)

I spent a whole day working yesterday. I started editing at 6:30 am and went till about 5:30pm the only fun I had was at critique group later. but when I think about it . . . isn't that editing too?

thanks again Nichole

Nichole Giles said...


Funny description. I hadn't thought of the skittles commercial, but you're right. That's awesome.

It's funny, I don't mind editing. I think sometimes writing is harder, but not always.

Anyway, it's all work, even if I like it. =)


Carolyn V. said...

Writing IS work! Darn it! I thought it would be easy. But althought it is work, it does have its rewards. =)

L.T. Elliot said...


This is the biggest issue for me. I haven't been bold enough or strong enough--or whatever you want to call it--to tell others that it's work and I must get it done. I just feel so guilty if I don't help out. But you're right, they'll never treat it seriously if I don't start doing that first.

Brava, Nichole!

Nichole Giles said...

Hi Carolyn, Hi L.T.! I'm so glad you agree. It is work, unfortunatly, but wonderful, fun, satisfying work. Right?

And it's hard telling people you have work to do when they're trying to tempt you into other activities, especially fun ones, but sometimes, you just have to put your foot down and say no. You'll never regret finishing your book, but you'll always regret it if you don't. At least, that's what I remind myself when the decision is hard.

Thanks ladies, for commenting.

Evelyn Curtis said...

I think that some people in my family (more like in-laws) will never fully understand my want and need to write. They might catch on when I get published though!

Nichole Giles said...

Absolutely, Evelyn. And if they don't, oh well. At least you know what's important to you. Eventually, the rest of the world--including your in-laws--will learn to deal with your need to write.

Good luck.


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