Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do You Write for Money or Love?

Writing for Pleasure or Profit

By Debbie Roome

Many people enjoy writing as a hobby and wonder if they could make a career of it. There is a definite difference between writing for pleasure and writing because you have to. Even when writing is your great passion, there are times when you just don’t want to tackle certain projects.

Writing as a Hobby
There is little external pressure when writing for fun. I used to write what I wanted, when I wanted. If I felt it was good enough, I would send it off to competitions and magazines and hope to earn some cash or recognition for my efforts. My successes were encouraging and slowly, my confidence grew. The desire to write as a career was always in the background but I was comfortable as I was.

Making the Change
When I decided to seek employment as a freelance writer, I soon learned I would have to toughen up and get used to working with people who had different ideas to mine. It was a process, but these days, I’m fairly immune to harsh, critical words. You have to learn to not take things personally. Accept the truth (if any), improve your work, and move on to the next job.

Writing Talent
The ability to write well is a gift, just like a good singing voice or being able to paint lifelike portraits. Like other gifts, it also needs to be trained and developed. The more training and practice you have, the easier it is to write because you have to, not because you want to.

Pressures and Demands
When working as a writer, there will be demands placed on your skills. This applies to all fields of writing and often takes new writers by surprise. An editor may request an article on a subject you know nothing about. You may be sent to interview someone you are not comfortable with. You may even be asked to rewrite something that is off the point or not detailed enough. All of this can add up to an unexpected amount of pressure.

Some people thrive on deadlines; others struggle with them. When writing for payment, deadlines will become a feature of daily life. Even if they are not imposed by the people you are working for, you need to set them in place to boost your productivity. I write well under pressure and normally write things just before the deadline date. I entered a local writing competition earlier this year and wrote and emailed the entry ten minutes before the midnight deadline. (And it placed first!) With paid work, however, I would never work with such a small time margin.

Writing what you Love
I love to write Christian fiction and hope to one day make a living out of doing so. I am aware that if I attain that goal, it will be a different dynamic to writing it as a hobby. For starters, it will have to undergo ruthless editing and I may end up with a different story to the one I started with. I was asked to write and read a story for our local community carols last year and although I had great fun doing so, I had to adapt it and make changes as requested by the committee. It is possible to make a living, writing what you love, but this comes with terms and conditions attached.

There have been times when I’ve been working on paid assignments that just didn’t appeal to me. Some were so bad that I wanted to throw them in the bin and give up. Things like cricket clubs hold little appeal for me, but as I’ve persevered and interviewed the relevant people, their passion has inspired and motivated me. I’ve also learned an amazing amount along the way.

Keep a Balance
I make time for writing for pleasure and profit as I need both. One inspires me and releases my creativity; the other does the same to a lesser extent and also pays the bills. If you’re undecided whether you want to write for pleasure or profit, consider the pluses and minuses of both and make an informed decision on what is right for you.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 and Faithwriters.

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