I spent more than a decade as a freelance advertising copywriter before I became a playwright. So when I shifted genres – taking a huge paycut in the process! – I already knew the one thing that can make or break your writing career.
You can take yourself seriously. Or not. You can see yourself as a writer who also teaches, is a barrista, raises a family. Or you can see yourself as a fill-in-the-blank who dabbles in writing.
If you want to take yourself seriously – and if you don’t, I promise you no one else will – you need to see yourself as a professional and your writing as a business.
In a few days, I’ll be introducing you to my long-time accountant Barbara who is this month’s guest blogger. Barbara is one of my biggest champions. She has read early drafts of plays, given me great feedback during readings and even travelled out of town to see my plays. But, by far, the biggest impact Barbara has had on my writing career was when she told me to get a separate business credit card and checking account.
Yep. It was as simple as that. From an accounting standpoint it made her life easier – I could give her a single credit card statement instead of handing her piles of crumpled receipts – but for me it was a reminder that Linda Price is a writer. After all, it says so on my checks. (And my letterhead and business cards – other things you should definitely have if you see your writing as a business.)
I try really hard to treat my writing as a business. Sometimes I do it very, very well. Sometimes I really suck at it. But if I only look at it as a hobby, I do it – and myself – a huge disservice. Writing is work. It demands to be fed – sometimes that means time, sometimes it means fees and postage and printer ink. Sometimes there’s money in that separate checking account to cover those expenses, sometimes . . . well that’s when I slide money around in ways that makes Barbara cringe.
When people ask if I make a living as a playwright, I usually respond. “Not a very good one.” But it is who I am. It is what I do. Knitting is a hobby. So is reading and putting together jigsaw puzzles and playing tennis. Writing is my business. “What’s the difference?” you ask. (After all there are months I make the same income playing tennis as I do writing.) It’s mindset.
As my accountant Barbara might someday have to tell me that this year the IRS no longer considers my writing a business but a hobby. But as my friend, as my theatre buddy and as an audience member, Barbara knows that writing is my business. I can’t explain it. I can’t define it. But regardless of what my 1040 might say, writing is my business. And seriously, who really listens to the IRS anyway.