When it comes to writing, the difference between a hobbyist and a professional isn’t really money. Instead, I’ve found the difference is more internal than external, an issue of priority and persistence and self-seriousness, all of which I also understand are things that can be difficult to maintain when the demands of work and family and laundry (always laundry) are pressing on you, and especially when it feels like nobody else believes in you. It would be a little disingenuous of me to imply that every acceptance I have received hasn’t acted as a kind of lifeline, a reason to keep going, or that they still don’t. They do, of course they do. But I guess what I’m saying, mostly to myself, but also to you and to anyone else who might be struggling with this, is that you don’t need a book deal for your commitment to your writing to be valid, you do not need a grant or a residency or an MFA. All of those things are nice, and by all means you should go after them, but I guess what I’m saying is that you do not need permission. You give yourself permission, one day at a time, you find the hours and protect them, you treat them as important and they become important, you treat your work as valid and it becomes valid.
I still think the day I became a writer was not the day I sold my book, nor the day I was accepted to a la-di-da program. It was probably the first time I set an alarm and actually got out of bed, when I went to the kitchen and ground the beans and poured the water, and most importantly when I told myself to sit down and get to work because this mattered.
photo via Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop