I spent almost every day last week gathering information for my accountant. I needed receipts and various other kinds of documentation for both our personal tax returns and those for my business.
I DO keep receipts in separate folders. However, according to my accountant, those of us in the business of writing, need to keep a monthly ledger of expenses (publishing costs, marketing, office supplies, and so on) and deposits (sales would make up the bulk of this income).
This habit makes tax time so much easier than tackling it all at once—as I did.
It’s also much easier if you have a credit and/or debit card for personal AND a completely different one for your business (which, thankfully, I did). We also need separate checking accounts.
Not only are these habits essential for taxes, they also are eye-opening when it comes to seeing in black and white—and maybe red—just how well our businesses performed over the past year.
Just as I claimed when I was a classroom teacher that “no one goes into the educational profession to make money,” I have realized the same holds true for writing.
Teachers teach largely because of their love for children and writers write out of a passion for communicating the written word.
I have learned to embrace this truth so that I am not so discouraged when I look at the bottom line, realizing the hourly rate for which I have been willing to work in order to achieve my dream.
After all, one cannot put a price on dreams…
A new acquaintance of mine was intrigued by why I wouldn’t just lay back and enjoy my retirement. “Shouldn’t you be going on a cruise, taking in Broadway plays, or some such leisurely activities?” I must admit that sometimes, when I’m up early to write before anyone else in my house is awake, vacations or just hanging out with some of the Red Hat Ladies does sound like a good idea. But my characters depend on me to give them life and a purpose. So, I grab a second cup of coffee and get on with it. Her followup question, however, is the real reason for my post today. What she asked was this: “What do you have to know to be a writer?” Where do I begin? Figuring she was not so much interested in specifics as she is in just making conversation at a barbecue, this is how I answered:
- First of all, you need a desire to write—to tell a story that’s been on your heart and mind for way too long. You need an overwhelming desire to get it down on paper.
- You need the desire to communicate. It is more than just writing, per se. It is thinking about the reader. Needing to connect with him/her on some deeper level. It’s that emotional connection that we both crave.
- You need to be fairly good in your use of spelling and grammar. (I say “fairly” because of there are so many online helps, such as Spell Check, that make that part of writing easy).
- But even those online helps are no substitute for a thorough knowledge of sentence structure and a myriad of other writing skills that go along with that. However, writing skills can be learned. I’m learning every day.
- You must be a self-starter, disciplined and persevering. Someone who truly does believe that the only way out of the tangled writing jungle is through writing, writing, and more writing.
- When your story calls, you must answer. Whether it is 3 a.m. or midnight, when an idea surfaces, you need to be there to develop it 24/7. This may require you to function, occasionally, on a minimal amount of sleep.
- You need to be able to delay immediate gratification for months—even years, sometimes. Writing and publishing take a long, long time. It may take you so long to get that book to market and receive those cherished letters from excited readers that you’ve even forgotten the names of some of your characters!
- My back and shoulders are aching today, so I must also remind you that you must be able to sit for long periods of time in front of a computer. Get up every hour and move around for a few minutes to avoid the chiropractic office becoming your home away from home.
- This contradicts #6 (above) but you do need sleep. You need to be sharp when you write or you’ll make mistakes. These will eat up precious time in editing and rewriting.
- The biggest thing you need to be a writer, though, I saved for the end. You need to be CREATIVE. You can know how to write perfect sentences, free from spelling and grammatical errors, but if you lack creativity, your book won’t be a satisfying read for anyone.
I was going to continue by talking about characters, plot, and setting. However, as I looked into her glazed eyes I could see that I had lost her at about #2. Her sights were now set on the dessert table… Brenda
I recently shared with someone that I am a writer, but later I asked myself if I really understood the difference between being a writer and an author. I decided to find out.
I discovered that although the words might be used interchangeably, they really are different.
An author creates the idea or content of what is being written, whereas a writer uses someone else’s ideas.
But it’s not that simple because a writer can be an author if he/she is expressing his own thoughts or ideas.
And there’s more.
As pertaining to writing books, even if you develop the plot and write your own ideas, you will be known as the author only when it is published.
Even if you write A LOT, but never get anything published, you will be known as a writer—and there’s no shame in that. Lots of good work, great ideas, and a wealth of information/enjoyment comes from writers.
I’ve had a lot of fun writing skits for various groups, poems for friends’ birthdays, etc. That kind of writing is self-rewarding in that it doesn’t need to be submitted and I know it won’t be critiqued. I do it for pure enjoyment. I bet you do, too.
However, if you do have aspirations of being an author, follow these 2 steps:
- Write, using your own ideas.
- Publish your work.