One of the biggest struggles I have in terms of my writing career is helping people to understand exactly what I do for a living. When I was a kid, I had dreams of becoming a “writer” – dreams I put on the shelf the moment I realized I didn’t have a fictionally creative bone in my body.
I didn’t realize I could really write until a few years ago. A friend had casually introduced me to one of the web’s many user generated content sites and I started submitting articles for a few dollars here and there. After that, I experimented with an Elance account. Imagine my surprise when one of my first clients sent me a message offering me regular, ongoing work. What started out as a few hours of work per week quickly grew into a full-time career.
Bye bye, desk job.
I have the same problems other freelance writers have. I have time-management issues and I have family members who don’t understand that writing is a full time job. While I’m willing to accommodate some people (like my Grandmom when she needs a ride to see her doctor, or my pregnant sister-in-law with the flu), I really can’t spend all day running errands and doing things during the time I should be – get this – working.
That’s not my main problem, though. My main problem is getting the people I know and love to understand exactly what it is that I’m doing. I need them to understand that what I do has a scope much larger than writing fiction novels for paperback rights.
When I tell people that I am a writer, they ask what I write. I watch as their eyes glaze over the second I start talking about web content and blogging. I can tell that they don’t “get” why I wouldn’t just “write a book” and “publish it” and “make lots of money.”
I can tell they don’t realize that every single thing they read on a daily basis is created by some sort of writer – whether her name is on the page or not. Writers, to them, write books. Period. End of statement.
The reality of the situation is that there are hundreds upon thousands of people in the world who want to write for a living. Many of them will publish books – fiction or non – but many of them will not. They’ll spend days, months, and years scribbling away only to struggle to find a market later on. They may make money. They may not.
I’m not one of those people. I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start with a fiction novel. Instead, I choose (for now) to put my fingers to the keyboard and create articles, blog posts, eBooks, eReports, and sales copy for business owners with needs. I am happy to give them content that will help them to take their businesses to the next level and, when compensated properly, I don’t mind that my name does not appear on the page. I pick and choose my projects to ensure I am able to pay my bills.
The other day I got a long, rambling email from a distant family member chiding me for not taking ghostwriting gig I had been offered. I should start by stating that he had misread the offer (as I wrote about it). A Malaysian “publisher” had offered me $80 (that is eighty dollars) to write a 40,000 word eBook. He misread the post and thought I had been offered $80,000 (eighty thousand dollars). He rambled on about how he couldn’t write if he wanted to and how he wanted to live vicariously through me. Others jumped on the band wagon and told me that I should take the deal and write the book “for experience.” Others simply told me to write my own book and grab up the “paperback rights.”
And then it hit me.
It’s just like my estranged cousin said. They want to live vicariously through me. They want to be able to say that they know a writer. They think they know what “writers” are and they think I’m doing it all wrong.
That said, I have news for all of my family members and friends – the same news I hope you’ll share with your family members and friends, and with anyone else who gives you a hassle because they think the writing world is as simplistic as the movies make it out to be:
I am a writer, whether my name appears on the page or not. I may never write a best-selling novel, and I’m OK with that.
And I’m happy.
Deborah Dera is a full-time professional writer specializing in personal finance, credit repair, loans, car insurance, education, writing, blogging, search engine optimization, and more. She’s the founder of Write on the Edge and offers unique content creation solutions to businesses looking to build their online brands.
Jonathan Wylie says
Great post. This is definitely something that all freelance writers can surely identify with to some extent.
Spot on. Can sum up in three simple words: hit, nail, head
The further I got into your article, the faster my head nodded and the more I wanted to shout “AMEN!” It sounds like we do very similar work, and I have had the exact same experience in telling people that I’m a writer of web content, blogs, and other random professional copy. Generally, the response is “Oh, so you’re a blogger” and it’s said with an edge that implies that I diddle around on the computer all day pretending to be a writer. I’m very tempted to forward this article to friends and family, to set the record straight for once. 🙂
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I needed to read this this morning. All of us have something to contribute of value and it’s up to us to value what we contribute, even if others do not. I love to write and that is what matters most.
P.S. Jones says
I’ve done some ghostwriting. One of my friends says that she could never do that because she’s want credit for her work. I asked her if she wanted a little sign with her name on every iPhone she sold or if she wanted the commission check. Suddenly, she saw my point.
Anne Wayman says
lol, 80 us dollars for 40,000 words…
When people ask me what I do I usually say “I’m a ghostwriter.” When they ask what that is I reply “I write books for folks.” That often ends it unless the person really is interested.
Umm… I think my eyes just Glazed over. Just kidding 🙂 Great Post!
This was definitely interesting for me to read. Today I interviewed a freelance writer who told me it took her a couple of years to get into the grove of regular freelance writing, which I completely understand. I’m excited for the beginning of my career. 🙂
Joe Taylor Jr. says
Testify, Deborah! The only tough thing about ghostwriting is that you can’t always disclose what you just wrote, even to family and friends (if you’re under a tight NDA). If I go more than a few weeks without publishing something under my own byline, I have to convince my loved ones that I really *am* working on drafts and not noodling around online.
I go through this all the time,infact a friend recently asked me the same question,as i went through the laborious task of explaining to her where exactly i see my blog in a few years,she gave me that glazed look and finally settled on ‘why don’t you write a book?’ i was lost for words.
Wendy L says
Interesting article but I am confused. If Deborah, whose name appears at the end, wrote it, who is Jeffrey Reyes, whose name appears under the headline?
Deborah Dera says
Wendy – Freelance Writing Gigs allowed me to submit a guest post. They post them under already created accounts but gave me credit for my work at the end.
Deborah Dera says
Thank you all for the comments. I do write some pieces under my own byline but the majority of my “pay the bills work” is for others. It is hard to make people understand not only what I do, but that I enjoy what I do. Good luck to all!
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CeLeste Christopher says
I get it. I am also a ghostwriter.