Lately I’ve been going through some sort of writing crisis. It’s not really writer’s block, but more of a flat out, “I don’t wanna,” kind of thing. I don’t know whether I’m simply burned out, tired, or frustrated, but the end result is that work isn’t getting done around here unless it’s urgent and well paid. The novels, short stories, etc. are all back burnered until I get past this. To help, I’ve been making lists of writing pros and cons. (In addition to all kinds of other voodoo to get my mojo back on track. Creativity exercises, anyone?)
I’m a big list person, so it’s only natural for me to make lists of what’s working and failing in my writing career. I want to know if it is even worth continuing to write books and stories, or if it’s time to hang that up and go back to being a freelancer full-time. That’s where the list of writing pros and cons comes in.
What I discovered in all this list making is that I really have two separate lists of pros and cons. One centers around being a writer, and the other centers around being an author. I hear you now: What’s the difference? Well, there might not be one for everyone. But for me, the difference is huge.
I began with the assumption that one pro/con list would cover everything. But I quickly found myself saying, “Hmm. That was true before I was published, but it’s not true now.” I realized that certain things were related to my writing goals. Being a writer was simply about the writing. Just me and the words on the page. Being an author, on the other hand, brings other things like marketing into the equation.
Being a writer had no cons. My pros were all things like:
- It’s fun and creative.
- Keeps me mentally active.
- There’s a challenge to improve.
- Helps with mental health.
I could not come up with a single con to being a writer. I loved the time when it was just me and the words. Even though I dreamed of publication, there was a freedom and a purity to that time. Everything was for fun and creative engagement. There was no stress or negativity, just a cool way to spend my free time.
Fast forward to my pro/con list from an author’s perspective. Turns out, publication has flipped the script and brought a lot more cons to the equation. The pros are still there, but now there are these cons:
- Negative reviews hurt, no matter how much I try to ignore them.
- Social media/platform building is a drain on both my time and sanity. It’s a wasteland of negativity out there.
- Marketing/discoverability eludes me. It’s stressful and most of it feels like a waste of time and money.
- I’m not making much money, so perhaps I should be using this time for something more productive. It feels like a waste of time, economically-speaking.
- Keeping to deadlines/making publishers happy is stressful.
- Demand for ever faster production is stressful.
- Staying published is harder than getting published.
The one pro I can add is:
- The high of seeing my books in print never gets old.
While the cons outnumber the pros in the “author” case, I do remind myself that this is often the case when any hobby becomes a job. When what you used to do for fun suddenly has stress and tasks that take you away from the fun, it’s inevitable to add a bunch of cons. (I loved Disney for years, but working for them changed that a bit. I still love it, but in a different, tempered way.)
That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to quit. If you can still find enough enjoyment to offset the cons, by all means keep doing the thing. But if all you can focus on is the cons, it might be time to go back to doing the thing for fun.
That’s where I’m at now. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth dealing with the cons (or hoping that some of them change to pros), or go back to just writing stories for my own enjoyment. Regardless of what I decide, it may help other writers to create their own pro/con lists. Different goals lead to different pros and cons. It’s important to understand what you want out of this writing gig, and then decide whether or not the pro/con calculus works out in your favor.
(Photo courtesy of geralt)