Saturday, February 23, 2013

Am I a Hobby Writer?

I have to wonder, am I a hobby writer?

Recently I went into a funk after failing to secure successful bids in a couple writing contests, one for Top Cow comics and another for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel, where I didn't make it past the first round.  I've been trying to break into comics for years, and Modern Ark, the novel I submitted to Amazon's contest, has been the source of my most sustained effort to be accepted by actual publishers.  Admittedly, it's an incredibly tricky book, a literary jumble really, something I was incredibly proud to write but probably looks at the very least convoluted to anyone looking for something with obviously broad appeal.

The other reason the funk happened is that I haven't written a word of my WIP since last year, and for a number of reasons, including the fact that financially I've been on a slippery slope since Borders closed in the fall of 2011, and I've been feeling panicky for months now, trying to secure a better employment position and failing miserably.  That's pretty much the mode I've been in since Borders, actually, so there are bound to be moments where it feels overwhelming.

A lot of the writing I've done has been where I've been in a more secure situation.  The lone exception was just after Borders closed, when I was completely unemployed for four months, and I wrote Yoshimi Trilogy.  It's much more difficult, apparently, to write with what for all intents and purposes is a part-time job.  Throughout 2013 so far I've been getting very few hours, which at least in theory would have been fantastic as far as using the time to finish the first draft of the WIP, but I ended up spending a lot of time job-hunting, and blogging.  I love blogging, otherwise I wouldn't do it, but there are times that I wonder if it gets in my way.

That and doubts.  I know I've stumbled into a community with a whole Insecure Writers thing every month, and I've never taken part in it.  Sometimes it just seems as if the whole community spends all its time supporting each other, not really reading each other so much as, well, supporting each other, and it can get a little annoying.  But I get my doubts, and the recent failures gave me pause.  A great big pause, because I don't like failure any more than the next guy, and sometimes it seems as if failure is all I ever really experience, and I wonder, what's the point?  I've now written a number of manuscripts, and last year the one book I had a contract with a publisher to have released by someone other than me ended up losing its home.  Earlier this month I salvaged some of my self-esteem with the Project Mayhem anthology, and...I'm not sure, but I guess I'll just have to accept it as a personal accomplishment, because I just don't have the ability to see it go much further than that.  I thought maybe the contributors would have been a little more excited about it, or have more or better connections than I do, or maybe they were all thinking the same about me.  Well, unfortunately that simply isn't the case.

And so it makes me go back to something I said in a book review I did earlier this year for someone in my blogging circle.  I called them a hobby writer.  I'm not sure, but I think they might have taken offense to that.  So what exactly is a hobby writer?

As opposed to writers who feel it in their bones, hobby writers write because they feel like it, because they always thought it was a really good idea.  They have ideas, but they don't have inspiration.  What I mean is they can come up with ideas.  Any writer needs ideas, and obviously every writer works with ideas, the whole point of being a writer is that you feel compelled to write about your ideas.  A hobby writer stops at that level.  They don't particularly know or care to develop their own specific voice.  They believe that their ideas are enough.  It's not really about the words that shape the ideas, it's just a compulsion to write.  They add to the catalog of stories but they don't necessarily add to the canon of books.  Their work is disposable, essentially, something that will entertain people who exist at the time the writer is living, releasing their material, but will be forgotten utterly and completely in the years to come.

This is not about popularity.  Popularity is a shifting phenomenon.  Something that's wildly popular one day can and will be completely forgotten the next.  Transcendent writing of any nature whether in books or songs or movies, endures, can and will be rediscovered and recognized for what it is, not the work of the writer but a story that seems to exist on its own merit.  I tend to think true writers can work in this mode on a consistent basis.  Hobby writers, then, are the ones who don't.  They are and always will be sustained on a basis of being known as someone who writes.  The others are known because of the stories they've written.

As a blogger, as someone who actively blogs about writing, I wonder if I'm a hobby writer.  Do I in fact write stories that exist to say that I'm a writer or do the stories exist that reveal me as a writer?  More and more I've been thinking of self-publishing as a way to conclude this once and for all.  In the days and weeks and months to follow, I think I'll be self-publishing a lot more material.  I'll start with Yoshimi Trilogy.  I've been telling you a lot about the Space Corps saga, and that of course is the subject of the WIP I hope to finish as a draft relatively soon (I've only had a third to go since December), but Yoshimi Trilogy represents a different kind of iconic story for me, something uncomplicated, which I can release as a series.

Yes, it seemed that as soon as I released Project Mayhem I dropped off the face of the earth, certainly here on this particular blog, and now I'll be spending time here talking about a different project, then another, then another...To me, it's weird, but then I haven't spent a lot of time talking about myself as a writer, really only when I was doing NaNoWriMo circa 2004-2006.  Hopefully when I'm finished, and maybe this will take all of 2013 and maybe longer, I'll have an answer to my question and maybe put it all behind me.  We'll see.


  1. Some deep thoughts.
    I wonder if I'm a hobby writer, not for that reason, but because it's not something I want to pursue forever or even make a living at it. I know everyone thinks that is weird after the success I've had, but I have other creative outlets and they call harder.
    You are welcome to join the IWSG. Sometimes we do need that supportive word. Those who participate often come back with comments and emails to me saying how it made such a huge difference to them and spurred them forward. Even if I'd never had any success with my books, the results of starting that group would've been more than enough for me.
    I guess you just need to find your place with this writing thing.


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