Is Writing Professionally the Ultimate Publication Goal?

Snow filters through the trees and fills the recently shoveled pathway. It’s been snowing lightly since sometime last night, tiny flakes descending from a glowering grey sky. It isn’t a blizzard – nothing like the mounds of white powder that buried Mt. Washington Ski Resort on Vancouver Island earlier this week. They had a record-breaking 150 cm. (5 ft.) in less than twelve hours, over 4 m. (13 ft.) in five days! The skiers love it, but stranded car owners are still digging out their vehicles.

After my oh-so long-winded post on Tuesday I found myself thinking seriously about my writing – about my short- and long-term goals, my dreams.

I think most of us like to ‘dream big’ and would probably jump at the opportunity to be a full time professional writer, making a living at what we love doing.  But I wonder if a writing career is everything we think it is. We see the professional’s life from the perspective of the amateur and it looks pretty rosy. What we don’t see is what it takes to get there and stay there.

The weekend skier who adores spending time on the slopes probably has no concept of the life of the Olympic skier – the sacrificial hours of grueling training day after day, the risk and injuries, the expense and promotion, the constant travel. When the weekend enthusiast watches an international skiing competition he sees only the exhilarating races, the skill, the medals, the glory.

Back in mid-September Jody Hedlund blogged about the differences between our writing as a hobby or a profession. If you didn’t happen to read that post I highly recommend you go back and do so now. She defined the differences between hobbyists and professional writers, particularly in the areas of motivation, pleasure, inspiration, work time, standards, investment and image.

For those of us who are putting publication on our wish list for 2011, and aiming at the life of a full time writer, I wonder if we really understand the commitment and endurance a career in writing will require.

The first person to comment on Jody’s blog post was Katie Ganshert, and she made a significant observation: “Another important point is that it’s OKAY to be a hobby writer. There’s no shame in that. It’s not like professional writers have a one-up on hobby writers. It’s all about what God’s called us to be.”

She’s right, of course. We need to allow God to guide our ambitions… and to remember there are other ways to use our [skiing] skills that are as valuable as whipping down a slope in search of gold medals.

Are you writing with the goal of publication and a full time career? If not, or if that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for you, what other areas might you find that would let you make use of your love of writing?

15 thoughts on “Is Writing Professionally the Ultimate Publication Goal?

  1. Judith Robl says:

    My goal is to earn enough from my speaking, writing and editing skills to supplement my retirement income. In most venues, I’m considered either over-age or over-educated for employment.

    And I thought I was just hitting my stride!

  2. Jody Hedlund says:

    “What we don’t see is what it takes to get there and stay there.” That particular line of your post really resonates with me, Carol. We do look at published author life with rose colored glasses, and now that I’m on the other side, it isn’t quite so rosy! While I do consider it a privilege and wonderful opportunity to have a book published, it’s been a LOT harder than I ever imagined. And certainly not glamorous! There have been times when I’ve wondered what I’m doing and if I can really keep it up.

    But I remind myself that God has given me the gift, that he wants me to use it for his glory, and that I need to walk in obedience to his directing. At this point, he’s opening doors and using my writing to touch lives. But that doesn’t mean he’ll always use me in this way. I just need to be open to whatever his plans are whether to write professionally or in a different way.

  3. Katt says:

    I love this post Carol. It reminds me of my “gifts”. They aren’t what I prayed for, they aren’t what I hoped for, they aren’t even what I thought they were or could be. In retrospect, I see how God has orchestrated HIS plan into my life. How HE has led me on the path HE intended for me to follow. I pray everyday for my ministry, and my writing. I struggle each day to let God lead me, rather than me lead God. When I was young (younger) I had my own agenda, and I realize now when it worked out it was really God’s agenda, and the times it didn’t work out, it was my own plan.
    My goal this year is to totally follow HIS plan—whatever that may be. I have hopes, but will be perfectly content to “settle” ( :D) for whatever HE sends my way.
    Happy New Year my sweet friend

  4. I would like to finish my novel, and I would like it to be published. Do I want a career as a writer? No. I cannot imagine writing with a deadline over my head. Eek! I do plan to put a quasi deadline over my own head to get my novel finished in 2011. I’ve revised it from start to finish so many times that I couldn’t possibly count them. One more edit at least is needed now.

    I am a caregiver by nature, and God has placed me in two marriages that required this kind of nurturing expression of love. This may be my calling; for this moment it is for sure. I enjoy writing. It’s always been a release for me to write my thoughts. Sharing my writing on a blog is enough for me, at least for now and in my foreseeable future.

  5. Excellent posting Careann, and a question I’ve had to ask for the past 10 years and still continue to do so. At long last I have a debut novel coming out, but each morning as I pray, I still have to hold my hopes and dreams for it in my open hand for God to either make it financially profitable, or to use it in whatever way He sees fit. But I know this, whether we are published in a professional setting or not, God uses our words. And yours on this blog are a blessing to many. Thank you for your encouraging me and others.

  6. joylene says:

    Strange, lately I’ve been noticing whenever my mind wonders towards anything resembling the near future, I snap to. After months of doing this I realize it’s fear. I am published, but I still remember the yearning to be published. The need to fulfill that dream. The fear that if I didn’t somehow, life would be incomplete and I would be a failure. Now that I have my second book coming out next year, that old fear is replaced by something equally debilitating. Even as I type this I can’t go to that place. Thank goodness I’ve learned to live in the now. Whatever my next book launch has in store for me, I’ll be there to experience it. I’ll let you know then what it was I was so afraid of. We’re probably have a good chuckle over nothing.

  7. Shari Green says:

    How important it is to let God guide my ambitions! Thanks for the reminder…. 🙂

  8. Tricia says:

    My goal is publication, but if you consider how much time I haven’t written lately, you’d think it was a hobby.

  9. Judith – Your goals sound very realistic, and I refuse to think your age will be a deterrent. Although it’s true many successful writers begin their careers before middle age, there are others who have been published and done very well in their fifties, sixties and seventies… I’ve heard of some even beyond that. Age may be a complicating factor but it isn’t a reason not to succeed. 🙂

    Jody – I can imagine that the view ‘from the other side’ has been quite a revelation but I stand by my earlier conviction. You have a distinctive way with words… a ministry… and God is using your talent to reach readers via your pages and posts. The fact that you have been open to his leading before, during and following publication is an example to others like me who strive for that kind of faithfulness.

    Katt – Sometimes it’s hard to identify our God-given gifts. It’s often easier to ask others what gifts they see in us. But your compassionate, loving, giving ways are obvious blessings to those who know you and I’d say they are wonderful gifts. You use your writing to expand on them. May God grant you discernment of the direction in which he’s leading.

  10. Carol Ann – Being a Christian caregiver is a ministry all its own! “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” [Matt. 25:40]

    I find writing is very therapeutic, quite apart from the fulfillment of creating fiction, so I can see where it makes a good companion to your present calling. I hope you keep at that revision so that when the time is right it will be ready to go.

    Christine – Thank you for your kind words. We have no way of knowing what God will do with what we say or write, but it is always my prayer that he will find a use for it. It’s wonderful to hear of your debut novel; I’ll be watching for more news about it. 🙂

    Joylene – Maybe just fear of the unknown future? Publication success can be scary because we know it demands so much more from us than the initial creation and polishing of a story. I think you can trust that if God gave you the ability to write, he will see you through the subsequent process. One day at a time, my friend.

  11. Shari – We entrust our entire lives into God’s care, but sometimes we overlook the side issues, don’t we? It’s easy to think they’re our personal realm and forget that he sees and cares about them, too. 🙂

    Tricia – Goals are a lot like wishes: they remain out of reach unless you add action to the desire. Publication is a big area. You’ve had short stories in e-zines that I know about so you’ve obviously been doing something right. Maybe your New Year’s Intention/Wishlist/Resolution should be to make sure your efforts are directed towards reaching a specific, attainable goal. Be patient but persistent. You’ll get there.

  12. dave ebright says:

    I’ve never considered writing for a career – still don’t. It’s my escape from my big boy job, though I’m aproaching it (the writing) more diligently than 1st intended. Seems it’s become my new addiction.

  13. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I’ve been a part-time writer for years, and tax-wise it was classified as a “hobby” until my income from it rose to a certain threshold. It formally became a “business” in 2008, when I signed my first book contract. I still make the majority of my income in another way, even though I now consider myself a professional writer. I once heard a statistic at a writer’s conference, that only 5% of writers can support themselves from writing alone. I believe it.

    This isn’t the kind of avocation to pursue if one is primarily interested in fame and fortune. The work itself is its own reward–and I speak from experience on that!

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