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Why I Write Reason 31: Writers Are My Role Models

Obviously, in wanting to become a writer I looked to other writers for inspiration. It’s helpful, emotionally, to know that they’ve struggled with the same sorts of things that I do. Knowing how they approach their work and practice their craft has guided me in shaping my own processes. Reading stories of how they landed early writing jobs, sold their first stories, and generally managed the business end of being a writer has provided some direction when I’ve felt that I’m floundering around out here all alone, trying to find my own way.

There’s more to it than the writing part. Even if I weren’t a writer, when I look at the sort of person that I want to be I think of writers. Specific writers, for specific character traits presence and an agile intellect. A generic, fictional archetype of a writer for some other qualities, like assertiveness and the grit to stick with things. Other people I admire I primarily know about because they are, or were, also writers even though they’re best known for other things. From those people I tend to get values I aspire to live by, like compassion and courage. Writers are my role models.

It doesn’t require me to be a writer to be well-spoken and have informed opinions. I can have a tastefully appointed yet quirky home regardless of my vocation. There is no prerequisite, in terms of career choices, for being well-read, possessed of critical thinking skills, and capable of solving problems. It it certainly possible to have empathy for the suffering of humanity without stringing words together for a living. Yet the writers I admire most are all of those things. It seems to me that the most convenient path to being that sort of person is to be a writer.

You can read more about Why I Write here.

 

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Why I Write Reason 30: I Set My Own Schedule

The advantage of working a 9-to-5 job, or any sort of job with set hours, is that at the end of your shift you can walk away. You get to leave it all behind, go live your life, and forget about work. Most creative people aren’t wired like that. Some people have to create as their muse moves them. Others, like my wife, never seem to switch off. Even when we’re trying to kick back and watch a movie, she’s sewing or crocheting or sketching. I love being a writer because I can set my own schedule, and write whenever I want and need to get the work done.

A job with set hours doesn’t always allow you to live the sort of life you want to live. I’ve written about the corporate world trying to police how many times per day I was allowed to go to the bathroom, and how long I was allowed to take. I’ve seen good workers fired because they couldn’t make their child care needs conform to the needs of the business, even though (in my opinion) the business could have and should have made some allowances. Adhering to the rules was more important, for some reason, than keeping a valuable employee.

The ability to set my own schedule lets me manage my own time and set my own priorities. I tend to go grocery shopping early on Tuesday mornings, avoiding the weekend mobs. Museums here are free on Fridays, and I love museums, so I take advantages of that as often as I can. I can catch lunch, or dinner, or coffee, with a friend. I can’t just drop everything and go, of course, because I have deadlines and responsibilities, but I can plan for it. I start a little earlier in the morning, work later in the evening, put in a few hours on the weekend to compensate. I don’t have someone yelling at me or giving me guilt for my lack of conformity. The work gets done, and my quality of life is much better, because I can set my own schedule.

You can read more about Why I Write here.

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Why I Write Reason 29: I Can Work From Home

Successful entrepreneurs don’t work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. With apologies to Tim Ferriss, whom I find alternately inspirational and annoying, most entrepreneurs can’t pull off a 4-hour workweek. That might be a goal, someday, when things are up and running, That assumes you’re setting up a turnkey operation, though, a business that essentially runs itself with minimal maintenance. It assumes that the person isn’t a serial entrepreneur, which is what a writer is when it comes down to it — when I’ve finished writing one project, it’s on to the next one.

There are too many things to do, most of which you’re doing yourself. You don’t have the budget to hire other people to do it. Even if you’ve got editors, proofreaders, and layout people making your ebook pretty, you’re likely doing your own sales and marketing. I work for myself from metaphorical sunrise to sunset in order to avoid working 9-to-5 for someone else. So one of the reasons I write is because I can work from home.

Throw the notions of working in the comfort of your sweatpants, only showering and shaving when you get around to it, out the window. As an entrepreneur, I work from home because it saves time and money. I don’t have a daily commute. There’s not additional rent for an office. I don’t have to buy another desk, another chair, and another coffee maker. There’s not second set of utility bills. That’s why I can run a business with small margins and turn a modest profit.

While it can be a challenge because in theory I’m always at work, there are a lot of advantages. If I’m tired, or not feeling well, I can go lay down in my own bed and take a nap. I can make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in my own kitchen. Since my wife Katie also works from home, I see more of her and get to spend more quality time with her than if I had a job somewhere else. Working from home means that I can put in the number of hours necessary to make a go of it as a writer, while maintaining that elusive “work-life” balance.

You can read more about Why I Write here.

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Why I Write Reason 28: It Makes Me Happy

Most of the reasons that I write seem to revolve around my finances, my creative impulses, and even my physical and mental health. There’s one reason that’s probably the most basic, while also the hardest to explain. I write because it makes me happy.

It’s a much more complicated concept than it seems. When I’m writing, I feel as if I’m doing something useful. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a piece that I’ll get paid for or something that will never be seen by anyone by me. There’s little difference between a passion project that I’m burning to put word count down on, or an essay or article that I’ve been hired to write. The feeling that I am creating something, contributing to something larger, remains.

Writing is also something that no one can take away from me. I can write in a program on my laptop, an app on my phone, or in a paper notebook. Sometimes I write in my head, putting together structure and ideas and dialog, going over them, and putting them down in some permanent format later. I can pour ideas and stories out verbally, to anyone willing to listen. That’s stringing words together to express something. That’s writing. That I can do it anywhere, under any circumstances, makes me happy.

What pleases me the most, though, is that writing allows me to assert myself. I’m an introvert, I’m shy, and I can be socially awkward — in person. In writing I can speak up and say whatever I want, and I can say it with confidence. It’s how, in spite of all of my quirks and foibles, I can interact with the world. That makes me happiest of all.

You can read more about Why I Write here.

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Why I Write Reason 27: I’m Not Good at Other Things

Writing wasn’t always what I wanted to do with my life. Back in high school I wanted to be a comic book artist. I worked hard at it, drawing every day and practicing how to draw people, landscapes, and every conceivable type of object. I even got accepted to the Kubert School, back when it was still called the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art.

After a year at Kubert, I realized that being an illustrator was not my destiny. While I received good grades and mostly positive critiques, I had some difficult epiphanies. The first was that while I was okay, I wasn’t outstanding. To get work in a highly competitive field you need to stand out, and my work just didn’t.

I also realized that I was slow. To make a living, especially back in those days, you had to be a workhorse. Again, if I were outstanding, and the quality of my work were a commodity, I could get away with only drawing one book a month. Speed would be a commodity that could compensate for my average level of skill and talent, because there’s always work for people who can bang things out quickly. But average and slow? That’s a non-starter.

What really changed my mind, though, was that my interests began to shift. From early childhood up through high school, my life was about comic books, science fiction, and tabletop roleplaying games. The comic book industry to this day is dominated by superheroes, so that would be the direction my career would likely be forced into. Yet I was developing and interest in film, and literary fiction, other sorts of stories about people who weren’t punching villains and slaying dragons and flying spaceships.

My realization was that I wanted to tell stories. Being the illustrator of a comic book wasn’t the only way to do that. If I wasn’t good enough to draw those stories, I could write them. By running down the checklist of the things that I knew, or at least didn’t believe I could do, I focused instead on the things that I could. Writing remains something that I can do, even when there are few other opportunities or even no other options.

You can read more about Why I Write here.