August 24th, 2010

post image: Office SpaceI just finished reading blog post Paying Yourself to Write by Tami Moore where she in turn references blog post Paid Writer by Bria Quinlan. Bria suggests setting up a pay scale (e.g., $10/hr for writing, $5/hr for research, etc.) and keeping track of what you earn. The idea is that putting a dollar value on an effort that (more often than not) results in no income helps keep you in the mindset that writing is still serious business.

I think Tami takes this concept further by saying, in so many words, it's not about the money but about how you treat this gig. Whether you're published or not, paid or not, professional or not: are you acting like you're like a published, paid, professional?

While both Bria and Tami embrace the idea of the pay scale, I feel Tami strikes closer to the heart of the matter: it's less about the money and more about your behavior. In short, are you treating your writing like an actual job?

That got me to thinking and here's my suggestion. Skip the $10/this, $5/that approach and treat yourself like a salaried employee instead. Pretend that no matter what you do, you'll still get paid five hundred dollars every week. But, and this is a big but, keep in mind that you have to submit a progress report to your boss every Friday.

What will you say when that report comes due each week? Or worse, what will you do when the Bobs ask you to justify your very existence. Will you proudly say, "I did four hours of research, spent six hours on my synopsis, and got in twelve good hours of writing." Or will you be forced to tell them, "Well, uhhh, ummm, you see there were three really great TV shows on this week that I couldn't miss. And, let's see, well I fell asleep on the couch on Tuesday. Plus, ummm . . . well, I just didn't feel like writing a whole lot."

Don't spend time counting up the dollars. Spend your time trying to keep your job!

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4 Responses to “Treat it Like a Job”

  1. Tami says:

    IFF (not a typo) you are capable of being your own boss in this way, you are 100% absolutely correct.

    The money thing is a gimmick. I know it's a gimmick, you know it's a gimmick, we all know how to spell gimmick.

    But many people have heard, repeated, printed out, pasted, or tattooed the old adage of "Just Write!" and initial enthusiasm wanes, giving way to a realization that there are no Bobs and nobody's probably going to say anything if you fall asleep on the couch on Tuesday.

    That was depressing.

    On a BRIGHTER note, I'm convinced that acknowledging the depressing bits is valuable armor when girding yourself against them.

    Some people employ actual Bobs (an accountability and writing group) to maintain their output. Doing so is a great idea, as long as the group is not made up of your friends, who will commiserate and tell you it's okay if you slack off.

    Your boss is not your buddy, and neither should your accountability partners be.

    This comment took a strange turn.

    In short, I AGREE - the point is most definitely not the dollars.

    However, the "just write!" approach rarely seems to work for most folks very often.

    In this way, your writing and dieting blogs are hinged together at the spine and kiss in the middle. =]

    • Charlie says:

      This comment took a strange turn.

      I think that's because you're struggling to agree with me and disagree with me at the same time.

      And I agree with you, so allow me to disagree...


      I think the reason I personally prefer the "just write" approach over the "yes, we know it's a gimmick" approach is that ultimately I believe the gimmicks don't work. You either are a writer or you aren't and no amount of trickery will push you from one state into the other.

      To quote Tami, "That was depressing."

      To make it less depressing, I offer this. If you're like me and you're stuck in that am-I-or-am-I-not state, tools like this may help you answer that. The tricks themselves won't tip you one way or the other, but they will help enlighten you about your own innate abilities.

      Does that make sense? (Probably not...)

  2. Suzie says:

    This is great advice! While I'm not writing a book so much as trying to finish a horrendous dissertation it always gets put on the back burner while I focus on my paid job. However, finish my dissertation is my job and should be my top priority so that I can get a better job! I love both of your blogs and am so glad that your back to blogging regularly!

  3. Jason says:

    This is a really, really good idea. But who will I submit my progress report to? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller... ?