Business or pleasure?

Why do you write? You want to express your feelings, to share your ideas, to influence others, to entertain and inform. It might be any or all of those things and more, but there is another question to ponder. Do you write for pleasure or business? Is it for fun, or because you want to make money with your words?

Most of us begin writing because we have this strong desire to put our thoughts and ideas down on paper. Sometimes it’s for our eyes only, as in a diary or journal. Sometimes it’s to share thoughts in a letter or in a special tribute to someone dear. Maybe it’s as an outlet for an overwhelming emotion – love, grief, anger. I think I have run the gamut of all those.

For many of us, there comes a day when we discover that we can make money doing what we love. That’s when we realize that writing for a living is a business, and there are times when there is no pleasure connected with it at all. Those times generally come when a writer becomes an employee, working for hire or on contract.

A number of years ago, I was hired to do a monthly newsletter for a factory that produced things like calculators, circuit boards, and a variety of digital products that I couldn’t explain to you if I had to.

Think factory: a building with acres under roof, long production lines of people doing the same small task over and over as products passed by them on conveyor belts. Items came off the line and were quality checked, packaged, and shipped to, who knows?

This monthly newsletter was not very big, 12 to 16 pages, magazine size. In each edition, I was required to highlight a particular production line, its successes in meeting quotas, having no injuries or problems during the month, interviewing the foreman, getting the employees of a line together for a photo (almost impossible) or highlighting a certain employee who had an interesting hobby or talent, and they were always the one who didn’t want attention.

I did not like that job and that’s an understatement; yet I produced the factory’s monthly newsletter for two years before I could walk away from it.
The income from that job sustained me while I built up a stable of other clients. And when I’d reached a goal where I could let one go, I don’t have to tell you which one I dropped. However, even though I did not enjoy the job, I did the best I could to deliver a quality product to those who were paying me good money for it. When I decided to turn the job over to someone else, I helped with the transition, left on good terms with the company, and added them to my resume.

My point is, if writing is a business, then not all of it is going to be pleasurable. A writer may have to take some less-than -satisfying jobs to earn a decent wage and continue with more interesting and/or exciting projects.

I look at that factory experience as a training exercise. I learned a lot about how to put together a company newsletter, doing my own photography, working with designers, interviewing people, and keeping the upper management happy.

Each thing we do as writers moves us forward in our careers. You may not get pleasure out of every job you take, but you will learn something from every job. You can certainly take the other route and write strictly for fun. Who wouldn’t want to do that? But if you need to get paid, then you must be a business. That means sometimes taking on the jobs you don’t like. It’s going to happen. Put your best into it and deal with it as a professional.