A few months ago during the Q&A session of one of my library talks, I mentioned that I had a day job. One of the attendees promptly asked me whether, in that case, my novel writing was just a hobby.
I have to say, the comment stung a little. I replied that, no, it was not a hobby. That in fact many Australian writers could not afford to write full time and therefore had day jobs as well as writing novels and short stories. Some are lawyers, academics or office workers. We squeeze in our fiction writing around our jobs and families. We get paid, even if it’s not always a lot of money. For every writer who also has a day job, writing is not ‘just a hobby’.
The fact is, my day job is part of my work as a writer. I’m very lucky that I get to be a writer for my living as well as my vocation. I generally contract my skills out these days, so I have done all kinds of writing: external communications, advertising copy, editing of content for the web, report writing, copyediting.
At present I edit training materials for grammar, punctuation and style. It may sound dull to some of you, but i’m getting paid to be pernickety about grammar, so I enjoy it. I learn a lot too, so it is helping me becoming a better writer in other fields.
Those other fields include writing content for iPhone apps. My app, Melbourne Literary, was done in partnership with the US tech company Sutro Media. They provided the platform (the content management system, basically). I pitched the idea of the app to them and then wrote everything and sourced all the pictures. I’ve pitched another app idea since then and am in the process of writing that one too. We share the profits of the apps sold through iTunes (and hopefully one day soon through Android). So that’s another little bit of income from my writing.
I have my fiction writing, too. So far I’ve had four novels published, one short fiction story and one non-fiction essay. I wrote a one act play once, and was paid a royalty by the little theatre that performed it in WA a few years ago.
Another writing-related activity I do is public speaking. I talk to libraries and organisations (and very occasionally schools) about different aspects of writing and reading. Of course, being a writer, pretty much everything I do counts as research. Travel, theatre, reading, shopping. It’s a good life.
There are so many things to being a writer, especially these days, when diversifying your skills is so important. All writers, these days, also need to be marketers, PR people, public speakers, educators, mentors and more.
I consider myself so lucky to be a professional writer in so many parts of my life. I pay the bills, I nourish my creative self and I have opportunities to meet and encourage other writers and readers. And every different type of writing (or speaking about writing) that I do adds to my knowledge and skills, and makes me a better writer.
Really, I have the best life!
(But I confess, if no-one paid me to write, I’d write anyway.)