John Scalzi made the point in his book, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing, that writing professionally, or writing be published and make money, is work. It is work in the most mundane sense of the word; work that you get up at 7 AM in the morning for; work that you toil all day away at; work that you do because you want to pay the bills. He delivered this point in the first chapter of the book and pounded on it with insistent regularity throughout the rest of the tome. Here’s an example of his prose on this idea
[Writing] takes work. Lots and lots of work.
Sometimes, work sucks.
But you do it anyway because that’s your job.
I’m not a professional writer, nor did I at any stage of my life attempted to be one. So please take my opinion for what it’s worth, but what Scalzi said makes a lot of sense to me. The very lucky few among us get to do work that we enjoy, work that we find meaningful, work that we like the actual act of doing and not just the result of having done it, work that pays us a decent wage for our efforts. Nonetheless, even for the lucky few, it is work; it is something you work hard at and something people remunerate you for by the end product, not by how much you sweated and suffered to produce it. Artistic endeavors like writing are squarely in this camp.
I would only disagree with Scalzi on what he didn’t say: that writing non-professionally, writing not-for-money, is still work. Or it can be. Getting published and getting money for one’s writing is one goal out of many that a person can have for his literary output, an important goal for sure, but only one. One can write for a lot of other reasons that makes writing not only the thing one does because/when one finds it enjoyable.
I’ve touched on this before, and I will take a stance on it now. Blog writing can be work, even when the blogger is writing entirely voluntarily. That is, even when the blogging is done under no external constraints, the writer can have goals for his writing that makes such a thing work. He can be working under internal constraints like “I want to improve my writing skills”, “I want to aim for a certain frequency in posting”, “I want more readers for my stuff, even though I never ever hope to make money from them” . . . etc.
For me, specifically, I blog because I have a (growing) number of ideas that I want to share. Recently, I have had libraries and library schools on the brain, and so I have written a lot about them (hopefully entertainingly!). I have ideas (how workable remains to be seen) about how libraries can be run that I want to put before an audience. It doesn’t matter if the audience think/comment critically on such things; it doesn’t matter if the ideas never get picked up by anyone through its exposure on this blog; it doesn’t matter that not many people read my blog, and it certainly doesn’t matter that the readership is not invested in librarianship. I want my ideas to exist on a public space; I want to see them take on an existence elsewhere than my head; I want to see them in a more permanent form than neurons firing in my brain. For all these things, I work at writing this blog.
Yes, I work. I write on weekends; I write on week nights; I think about what I want to write when I’m riding the bus; I read slightly less because I spend more time on writing; I miss that forgone reading; but I write. I write not because my muse is sweetness and light. She’s a drill sergeant, getting in my face and directly shouting into my eardrums “drop and give me 20!”, but she’s dependable. And I write.