Monday, August 08, 2011

Writing as a Profession

by Jamie Freveletti

At a recent dinner party my friends and I started discussing our previous jobs, from the earliest to present. Once we began going around the table asking the best and worst jobs we've had it became really funny. I've continued the discussion by asking those I meet to tell me their experiences. At least two had worked in some sort of meat processing facility and both quit after three days. Apparently you don't want to see how sausage is made, nor do you want to work on a poultry farm.

Others discussed the grind of physical labor. Lifting cords of wood and shoving steel wore out two friends, even though they were young when they attempted it. Watching children in a summer day camp climbed the list for one as the most stressful job she's ever had. She said it takes a special person to handle thirty children at once. She's says now when her three seem to be running in all different directions she calms herself by remembering the thirty. Most seemed to like being a waiter or waitressing (I did as well) and one loved working summers at a summer camp.

It never occurred to me how different it is to be a writer until I happened to pick up some email the other day while on the fly. It was work related-- I have a separate email address only for my agent, publicist, editors and publishing houses-- and it was about the upcoming launch of The Ninth Day. Because the launch is less than two months out (September 27) I'm in the prelaunch period where there are a lot of decisions to be made. Tour schedule, signings and marketing. I picked it up on my phone on a late Friday and it was an easily handled request.

Now, as a lawyer, any given day would have included an email or call from a panicked attorney in the firm with a crisis that needed to be addressed that minute. By that I mean drop everything else and head to the office immediately. I once got a call on a friday at noon from the mail room. A sixty page injunction was coming through by fax with an emergency hearing in a far north suburb. It was the Friday before the Fourth of July. Yep, some lawyer had arranged the hearing for what he thought would be the worst possible time for the opposing counsel to appear. Of course everyone was already gone or at the golf course. I, however, was there and the document ended up on my desk. Within minutes I was on the road for the hour and a half drive to make the hearing.

This kind of gamesmenship doesn't seem to be the norm in the publishing world. Yes, I heard about the time that Amazon uncloaked their emails by mistake and it was discovered that some industry professionals were busy posting bad reviews on the books of their competitors. Whenever you allow anonymous reviews you'll get some bad behavior and the anonymity of the internet makes this easy to do. And I'm not saying that emergencies don't happen, but for the most part a well planned launch will address as many variables as possible well before publication date.

Probably the toughest aspect of writing as a profession is the discipline needed to write on a schedule when no one is hovering over you demanding it. It's easy to let other things take your attention away. Before you know it, you're cleaning the kitchen or fielding phone calls when you should be writing. You need to self motivate. Luckily, writing is so enthralling, that getting it done seems to be fun rather than work. And that is a great thing to be able to say!


Dana King said...

Thanks for this. Few things can turn me off to a writer quicker than a lengthy description of what a hard life it is. No one is forced into becoming a writer; we all choose it.

Ricky Bush said...

Oh, yeah, the old "self motivation" factor has to be whipped into shape in order to whip the WIP into shape.

Jamie Freveletti said...

Yes--we force it upon ourselves, don't we?

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M.E. said...

We writers choose the writing life. We get to be our own "boss," but the downside could be discipline to get our WIP finished.

I have found that my non-writing friends and family assume that I don't work, since I do not commute to an office daily. They wonder why I don't answer their phone calls to chat, since I'm "just sitting at home all day." Hah!

Allison Leotta said...

Great post, Jamie! You made me appreciate my day job.

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