Who’s the Boss?

man loungingOne of the neat things about being a writer is basically you’re the boss. You can set your own hours, decide what you’re going to work on, and plan how you want the project (story) to turn out.



One of the worst things about being a writer is you’re the boss.

Yes, you can set your own hours, but it’s way too easy to let other things, events, people nibble up those hours. Your spouse or significant other sees you staring at the computer screen, not typing, and assumes it’s okay to interrupt. Or friends call and ask you to do something, either with them or for the school or an organization, and how do you say no? As far as they’re concerned, you don’t work, so you must be available. Right? Or you’re working at home and you know the family needs clean clothes, or the refrigerator is empty, or your cat just knocked over the gold fish bowl. Can you really ignore those needs and keep typing?

It takes a lot of willpower to set aside a block of time or set of days when you won’t let anything interfere with your writing. I’ve often seen the quote: “Writing is 5% talent and 95% persistence.” (Or hard work.) Over the years I’ve come across many very talented writers (far better writers than I’ll ever be) who never get beyond the desire to write a book. They have the talent, but they don’t have the self-discipline or will to treat their writing as if they had a boss who would dock their pay if they didn’t come into the office at a specific time and not leave until they’d put in a full day of work.you are fired

It doesn’t have to be an 8-hour day. One hour a day has worked for many fledgling authors. The writer simply has to make it clear (both to herself/himself and others) that this is writing time…no interruptions, please. (When my children were small, they knew I wasn’t to be interrupted unless there was blood or a bone sticking out. They still remind me of that.)

Deciding what you’re going to work on also has its drawbacks. Oh, it’s nice to be in control of what you write, but I’ve seen many beginning writers start one book, get a ways into it, run into some problems or get a different, more exciting idea, start another story, get another new idea, start that story, then another and another. Now they have several stories started, but nothing finished, and because there is no “boss” demanding a project be completed, they never will have a story that could be published.

Even established writers don’t always have control over what they’re going to write. Some have a series or character that their fans adore. As much as that writer might want to try a different genre, unless s/he writes more than one book a year the fans have become the boss. You will write what I want, not what you want.

And, of course, we may all like to think we have complete control over what we’re writing, but unless we self-publish, if we want to be published, we do have a “boss.” Publishers determine genres they’ll accept, along with lengths, and to some extent, content. Editors often see the story in a different way and request changes. We, as writers, can always say no: it’s my way or I’m pulling it. After all, it is my name on the cover of the book or as a byline on a story. But refusing to make those changes may mean the book won’t be published, and if the change isn’t that great, or if I can fit my idea into the publisher’s guidelines, am I going to refuse?

Sometimes I think I’m the boss. Other times I know it’s an illusion. ☺

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15 Responses to Who’s the Boss?

  1. Amy Swager says:

    This is so timely for me. If I really want to be a serious writer and not a dabbler, I need to treat it like a real job. I guess it’s time for me to decide what I want to be when I grow up!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Oh boy, Amy, I said the same thing when I was about your age. Yep, you’re right. You do need to treat it as a job. Give yourself time during the day to write and stick to it, and I bet I’ll be reading something by you in the near future.

  2. Diane Burton says:

    You’re absolutely right, Maris, about the best & worst part of being your own boss. Treating your writing like a job and making it clear to the family that your writing time is sacred helps.

  3. Bill Hopkins says:

    Thanks for setting us straight. Or making us feel guilty. Whatever…you did the job!

  4. So many distractions! I suppose that’s why I get more writing done early in the morning, before everyone else is up. But I’m happy for every fifteen minute block of time when the words come and I am a little bit closer to finishing my story.

  5. So very true, Maris. I’ve found that striving for an entire day of writing time just doesn’t work any more, but a three or four hour slice allows me to be productive and still meet my obligations at home. In my situation, I have to be flexible as to what time of day my hours are available, but so far, this way is working. And I don’t stress so much for not having worked my 8-hour day. I just have to make certain I use those “me” hours wisely.

  6. Great blog! I agree that it’s tough to sit down and pound out those words when the sun is shining outside! Good thing it rains a lot where I live. 🙂

  7. Melissa Keir says:

    I also agree that it is the plus and minus of being my own boss. I’m also a little nervous about not having another person to throw ideas off of. I love having someone else to share my ideas with. 🙂 But I do agree, writing has to be treated as a job or else nothing will work out as you want it to!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Melissa, I’ve found critique groups fill that need for a person to share ideas with. But you’re right, when I worked at the college, I loved being able to step into the next room and say, “What do you think of…?”

  8. Lucy Naylor Kubash says:

    It really is easier to have a regular job where you are accountable to someone other than yourself. I’m not a very good boss for myself or anyone else! But I’m trying to get back in the writing mode. Self-discipline is the key and the hardest thing to practice, but I’ll get there again.

  9. Joseph Higdon says:

    Many published writers struggled with the same problem of distractions and interruptions. Ray Bradbury called Fahrenheit 451 a dime novel. He couldn’t write at home because his family kept demanding his time, so he had to go to the local library and rent a manual typewriter for a dime an hour to type the manuscript that became this famous novel. Other writers have used a building away from the house or created an office at another property so that the focus is on the work.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I used to have a place I went to write. Now I live there. I tried the library, but it hasn’t been working for me. I hadn’t heard that about Ray Bradbury. Thanks for that tid-bit, Joseph. Now (if Bradbury were still alive) he’d either take his laptop with him or sign up to use the library computer.