Tonight I bought a new computer because my old one was capable enough for full-time writing, but apparently not for accessing work email. The guy at Harvey Norman asked me what work I do. I hesitated. I’m a [insert one of my brand new day jobs, which I’ve done for all of a day and a half], I said.
Why did I not say I was a writer? Until two weeks ago, that is exactly how I used to answer the question. I may not be a published writer but I believe in a build-it-and-they-will-come philosophy. I wrote every day. It was the activity that defined my productivity.
With just two weeks of paid work under my belt I find myself suddenly declaring I am something other than a writer. But I still write. It might be just 400 words a night instead of my usual 2000. And publication is still my goal. I still follow writers and agents and publishers and writing competitions on social media. And importantly, I am still studying writing at university.
So why do I feel that paid work trumps writing?
This question seems to be at the heart of how our society values writing as a profession. Only a very small minority of Australian writers are able to be full-time writers, the rest must yearn for the holy grail of a well-paid part-time job. Some are lucky enough to be employed in complementary industries.
Meanwhile my professional life as a writer continues to increase the losses column on my tax return, while my other self, the one I now face the public with, slowly increases the income column.
I want to say what I could not say tonight at Harvey Norman. I am a writer.