Contract Writing vs. Fiction

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Ever since I got serious about writing fiction — and by that I mean, forcing myself to stop engaging in what I classily refer to as “mental masturbation” and actually get the damned story on paper – I’ve noticed this weird division in my writing life. On one side, we have contract writing, which consists of being a stringer for a newspaper, writing the odd magazine article, corporate writing like rewriting somebody’s web site (which I did this week), and basically any other kind of writing that I can get somebody to pay me for.

I appreciate my contract writing. I really do. A lot. It helps to pay the bills and I count on it to slowly but surely drag my family out of the black hole of medical debt the last few years have plunged us into. Also, I’m as validation-needy as the next person, so I’ll admit that seeing my name in print is…nice. But these days, I have to admit that the contract writing has started to feel a bit like doing the dishes. There is a marked “I have to get that done so I can move on to something good” feeling about it.

On one hand, I’m tempted to feel bad about that (ah, sweet guilt). On the other hand, I suppose it’s to be expected. One thing is inherently more enjoyable than the other. While I have been assigned many interesting stories by my clients, they just can’t stand up to the passionate enjoyment I get from writing stories.

I know that I’m lucky to be able to make my living writing instead of say writing at night and cleaning out chicken coops during the day (pretty sure that was one of Douglas Adams’ jobs). But who would have expected that writing fiction would make my day job feel a bit like cleaning out chicken coops? It’s the thing I’m doing while I strive for what I really want to do.

Human nature? Yeah, probably. We’re never satisfied…but isn’t that what gets us to strive for more? From candles to light bulbs? From the Earth to the moon? From stringer to author???  We’ll see…

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