Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Writing, the best of jobs, the worst of jobs

This week on SFF Seven, we’re talking about the absolute best part of publishing… and also the worst, the nadir. The pit. The suxors.

First, the good stuff. For me, the best part of publishing is not even publishing, not really. It’s writing the book. I believe that writing is not a thing I do so much as it is a thing I am in my most core self. If I wrote nothing, I would no longer exist. That’s how integral storytelling is for me. 

Note that I’m using words like writing and storytelling here, not necessarily publishing. Where publishing shines is those occasions when I am identified as an authoress. In other words, I love validation from the outside world of a thing that I know already: that I’m a thing that writes. That validation can come in the form of an email from somebody who read a book of mine and liked it enough to tell me, or having my agent or editor express excitement over a manuscript, or even my kid telling her English teacher that she developed strong writing skills because her mom is “a professional writer.” 

Those are the moments in my life when I feel the most real, like I’m earning my spot on this planet by doing the thing I was meant to do. Publishing sometimes offers those moments, and I love it for that.

I love it less for being a business, which leads us to my least favorite thing about publishing: money. Anybody says they’re writing purely for the riches of it all gets an automatic side-eye from me. That person would be better served in almost any other profession, because fiction writing is a terrible get-rich-quick scheme. The dirty secret about this biz is that most writers don’t make a living wage through their fiction writing alone, so they supplement by giving talks, doing a little editing on the side, writing how-to books, teaching classes, or, as in my case, having a partner who doesn’t mind that I’m a net negative on the household income tax form. Yeah, I am very aware of my privilege, and I am grateful. 

To him, mind you. Not to publishing. Publishing as a biz minds very much if a writer does not rake in the bucks. Publishing is very okay with kicking that writer right to the curb. Nothing personal, just business. And that’s the thing I hate most about it.