Introductions :-) and a ?

There is nothing more exciting for an author than to see their work in print.

Like many writers just starting out, my desire for that moment outweighed my plan to make a living wage as a writer - being published as the goal rather than being paid.

How many of us on Critique Circle see our writing as “job,” “hobby,” “art,” “meditation,” or….? And what do we want it to become?

Tess Anderson

There is nothing more exciting for an author than to see their work in print.

Like many writers just starting out, my desire for that moment outweighed my plan to make a living wage as a writer - being published as the goal rather than being paid.

This is the third time in my life I’ve had the opportunity to write full time – and this time, I decided to do things a little differently. Rather than look at this as art, I decided to take a business approach. When moving from working for a company to freelancing, the rule of thumb is it takes an average of 18-months to start seeing results. So, I’ve given myself 18 months. 

Five months in, and I’m not making a lot, but I have return clients and am learning so much about the business of writing and myself as a writer. I thought I’d share my journey and start a dialogue about writing as a job and see what we can learn from each other.

So, here is my question for the week.

How many of us on Critique Circle see our writing as “job,” “hobby,” “art,” “meditation,” or….? And what do we want it to become?

Cheers! ~ Tess



Good question, Tess!

I guess I want to write primarily so as to be able to reach people – delight and amuse and move them. So publication – distribution, or making the stories widely available – is first and foremost.

But I’d also like to make some money in the process, though in my case it’s more likely to be supplemental retirement income than a full-time job. So I’m trying to grapple with the business end of the enterprise too.


Nov-28 2020


h, the old trade-off between “art” and “filthy lucre”
I’ll give you the good old staff college answer, suitable for any thorny question, no matter what the topic. At least, for me, it always bought a few more precious seconds to frame a plausible reply.

     -  **"It depends on the circumstances"** - 

viz. It depends where we are in our life at any given time.

I started writing stories when I was was very young. My father was in the RCN and away at sea for months at a time. Me and my siblings each had to write a weekly letter and tell Dad what we’d been up to. Being artistically inclined, my childish screeds were accompanied by elaborate drawings to illustrate my stories. I found them all preserved, some 50 years later, in a basement filing cabinet I was cleaning out after my Dad passed away. He had kept every single one and I broke down and cried.
I read voraciously as well, but writing back then was a joy, a way of expressing oneself and being understood by adults. It was part of growing up. Nowadays, letter writing is a lost art.

As a penniless journalism student at college I started to see writing as as a profession (not a job), and thought once immersed in it, the opportunities for perhaps freelancing or stringing on the side would be endless. The world was my oyster. But I joined the Army. The writing became part of my job when I was given the secondary duty of Unit Information Officer, a duty that accompanied me like a shadow from posting to posting. The first piece I ever submitted, a green 2nd Lieutenant, was to a regional magazine, an article to celebrate and record the granting of the the Freedom of the City to my regiment on the 100th Anniversary of its raising in 1883. It was semi-fictional piece (seen through the eyes of the ghost of the first Regimental Sergeant Major, critically observing all the panoply of the Trooping of the Colour ceremony complete with Royal participation). Some weeks later a check for 200 dollars arrived in the mail addressed to me. Virtuous young sprog that I was, I took it immediately to the Deputy Commanding Officer and asked him what I should do with it. He smiled at me and said “Congratulations, Ian. It’s all yours. Well done.” That was the start of my freelance career on the side of a very demanding military career. I wrote several more articles for the same magazine, some on military history of the region, but others on a wide range of subjects from parks to local folklore. All paid.

When I branched out to other magazines including the Osprey Military Journal in the UK, the latter folks asked if I would like to write some trade books for them in their WARRIOR series. With a couple of those under the belt, followed by subsequent invites to write battle monographs as chapters in books and teaching military history, I was weaned off magazine articles. I decided I could start writing books on topics of my choice for a change. Retired, and several books later, I’m now dusting off my only fictional work - a labour of love started back when I was a young infantry major bored to tears at staff college - a novel about the Siege and Battle of Quebec, 1759. [Shamless plug advisory - see CLASSIFIEDs].

The royalties for my books are paltry these days, and when I tried to tell my current publisher to forgo the formalities, he says he has to send them for accounting and tax purposes. (BTW, I have never had an agent, nor the need for one).

So to sum up, in retirement, I’m back to that first blush of story-telling having run the gamut of “pleasure” “job/duty,” “academia” (publish or perish), “art,” and, perhaps most important, food for the soul.

Many years ago I bounced one of the early draft chapters of my novel off my Dad to draw on his extensive nautical expertise (he was a great yachtsman and avid fan of Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful historical fiction). I don’t expect (nor intend) to earn a cent from it, just like when I first took pencil in hand over sixty years ago to report on the week to my absent father. Hope you like the novel Dad when its finished, Dad.

Dec-01 2020


The Unofficial Writers’ Prayer

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me.

Emily Dickenson.

Dec-03 2020


I do hope you are successful! What markets are you looking at?

I have never understood why there has to be a tradeoff between being an artist and being a businessperson. I admit that has caused strife when my business sense confronts working with an ARTIST who is more about living out their image of what an artist is rather than getting down to the work.

As writers, what we do is work – and I dread all the people and organizations out there that take advantage of that dream.

Isn’t it funny how if one “writes,” all jobs tend to take on writing aspects? As a project manager, I ended up writing Request for Proposals - as a Director of a small business, I wrote everything from the HR handbook to training and marketing materials - even now, as a Treasurer of a Non-Profit, I’m writing website copy and revising By-Laws.

Your journey sounds amazing, and I do hope you finish the novel.

@42ndrhr – I adore Dickenson and had forgotten that piece. Thank you for the reminder!

Dec-04 2020
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