My Work is Absolutely as Valuable as Yours

My Work is Absolutely as Valuable as Yours

The biggest struggle I face as an indie author has nothing to do with inspiration or even with sales. It’s time.

There’s never enough time to complete all the tasks on my to-do list. Worse, I have to defend every second of that time from people who act as if my work should be finished with a snap of my fingers. This near constant battle is exhausting, which only makes it more difficult to use my available time efficiently.

If I could change one thing about my day-to-day life, it would be people’s perception of what I do.

Writing is Work

We’ve all seen the memes; people believe writers breeze through the creation of their stories. Society either perceives them as cool cats with a cup of coffee endlessly tapping away at their laptops. OR we perceive them as lazy people who spend the whole day partying because they only need five minutes to make the magic happen – right?

If writing worked that way, my life would be much easier.

I can’t count the number of times people have said, “It must be nice to be home all day.” As if to suggest that I spend that time parked in front of Netflix with a margarita while the rest of the population contributes to society. And while I’ll admit that I love having a work uniform of yoga pants and a t-shirt, that’s about as relaxing as my typical day gets.

The fact is, creative endeavors of any kind require time, effort and energy. No one wakes up with the words on the tips of their fingers, effortlessly scribbles them across the page and then breezes into the office to work their full-time job. Writing a thousand words could take forty minutes if you’re feeling particularly inspired. But if you’re not, a thousand words could take three hours and feel like pulling teeth. Sometimes novels flow and sometimes you fight for every sentence.

Creativity can leave you as exhausted at the end of the day as physical labor. Brain work tires you out. And I haven’t even touched on all the non-writing tasks involved in publishing a book. There’s networking, marketing, covers, queries if you want to traditionally publish. The list goes on. By the time you add it all up, there’s more than enough to occupy 40+ hours of work every week.

A day in the life of me…

Typically, I start my day with social media interactions. Having an author platform is an important part of publishing, whether you do it yourself or take the traditional route. And a big part of that platform is interacting with fans and potential readers in places like Twitter and Facebook. People often see me on these pages and assume I’m just fooling around. But what I’m really trying to do is make connections with readers and other writers in my community. It’s one of the best ways to get your work out there, especially early in your career.

I start with social media in the morning because I’m usually too bleary to jump directly into creation. After a few minutes to check my messages, grab breakfast and coffee, and sometimes a quick yoga break, I settle in for my morning writing block.

Between 10 AM and 1PM, I try to tackle my first writing goal of the day. Sometimes it’s to write a scene. Sometimes it’s to edit a chapter. Sometimes it’s to outline whatever’s coming up next. Sometimes I fly through it, sometimes I lose focus, and sometimes even pounding away at the keyboard for three solid hours just isn’t enough time to get me to the end of my thoughts. I try to stop at 1 for lunch but, the truth is, if I’m on a roll, I tend to just keep going.

After lunch, I take another quick social media break. Then I dive in to my second writing block of the day between 3 PM and 6PM. Sometimes I have a similar goal as I did in the morning, sometimes I swap projects. At 6, it’s time to make dinner. After that, I try to tend at least one marketing task every day.

I’m working hard whether you see it or not

For the most part, I’m content to do my thing and ignore what people say about it. But eventually, all the little comments add up. I get sick of feeling like I can’t take a break to watch one YouTube video over lunch. Or put on a Twitch stream in the background while I work. People act as if taking five minutes away from writing proves that I’m lazy and not actually accomplishing anything (despite my word counts that prove otherwise).

But what’s really devastating is when people start suggesting I give up my work time for various reasons. And honestly, I’ve heard them all. You should be able to do me this favor because you don’t work a real job. You should be able to drop everything and help me right this minute because you’re at home. You should be able to take a week off at the drop of a hat because you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.

When you say these things to a creative – however gently and diplomatically – what they hear is this: Your work is not valid. What you do is not important. What you do cannot be considered a legitimate profession. The time you spend working is less important than everything else.

It’s true that the major perk of writing full time is that my schedule can be flexible. If we want to go look at a house that has just come on sale, I can do that without causing a major headache. If a friend has an unexpected emergency, I can offer support. And when it comes time to travel, I get to do that without having to jump through flaming hoops of fire.

All I Want is Respect

But there’s a big difference between me offering that time and others demanding I accommodate them.

Because the downside of being my own boss is that there’s no one to hold me accountable except myself. If I’ve set a deadline, the only person ensuring I meet that deadline is me. Which means the only person who knows what kind of impact taking a week off will have on my deadline is also me. If I’m close to the end of a project, it’s much harder to set it aside and still meet my goals than it might be in the early stages. Especially if the project in question is a release; it’s much harder to reschedule something like that once the groundwork has been laid.

And because I’m the only employee in this particular company, every day I take off is a setback in some form or another. Every hour I spend on something other than work is another task that doesn’t get ticked off the list. And there’s never a shortage of tasks demanding attention.

At the end of the day, all I want is for people to treat my job the way they would treat any other job. Respect the hours I have set aside for it. Be flexible if you want my time and let me choose the schedule interruption that impacts me least. Don’t assume that because I work from home and set my own schedule, all of my days are automatically free and open, or that taking that day away from work won’t pose a detriment to my long-term goals.

Plenty of people are never going to be able to understand what I do and why. And that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean they can’t respect me and the way I spend my time.

5 Replies to “My Work is Absolutely as Valuable as Yours”

    1. It feels like it should be easy to make people understand but it isn’t x.x And eventually, it stops being worth the energy you put into trying to explain. At least all creatives seem to understand each other!

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