Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Monday, April 30, 2012

Not just a hobby, dude

It's April, so I was doing my taxes. Not my favorite thing on earth.

Actually, I was gathering papers and checking my files and looking up figures and calling up my dentist so I could figure out how much I spent on family dental bills last year ($3,000, believe it or not. Yes, we do floss our teeth), and then giving all the results to my tax accountant, because numbers and my brain, they don't mix, and my taxes happen to be complicated. So, technically, the accountant was doing my taxes, not me.

I was just paying for it.

Not my favorite thing, either. I needed more deductions.

So I asked the tax guy if I could deduct writing expenses. Writing conference fees, travel expenses, the research trip I really need to take for my next book...because I had heard...

Him (sympathetic smile): No, unfortunately, since your writing doesn't bring in any actual income, the government considers it a "working hobby." You know, something you just do for fun.


I think he was trying to be nice.

Me: Fun? Fun? You know what Flannery O'Connor says about that? Check out the quote on the top of my blog! Have you looked at my dental bills?

"Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay.
I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality
and it's very shocking to the system."--Flannery O'Connor

Me: What time does your office close? 5:00 pm? What time does my laptop close? 2:00 am? Wanna compare hours?


Me: A Hobby? Wanna punch in the face?


Ok, not really. I didn't really say any of that. It wasn't his fault, after all. I went home and punched my pillow in the face. Might have fantasized it was a tax guy.

Somebody deserved to be punched.


Then I took a deep breath and sat down to write.

Forget the money. Because I had work to do, and I didn't have time to mope. Because unless you want to produce drivel, writing is work. Hard, hard, satisfying, compulsive, creative work.

bed as work station

Even if I do sometimes work in my pajamas.

In bed.

No make-up.

Medusa hair.



And at the dentist (not in pajamas). During violin lessons. Barefoot in the grass. And late at night after everyone is asleep. Even if, yes, it's sometimes fun.

It's not for fun. It's because I think it matters. And I can't help it.

It's still a job.

And still worth it.



Even without a tax deduction.






5 comments:

  1. Amen to that. My brain doesn't ever take days off. (Despite how desperately I wish it would sometimes!) And writing itself is SO hard. Conveying the right thing, in the right way? It's an exercise in self-torture sometimes. But it is rewarding and I wouldn't do it if it didn't matter.

    You, Elena, have a way of expression that humbles and shames me.

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  2. I think you found the grossest picture of teeth on the internet! :o
    I agree. I haven't done it much in a year, but it's definitely only fun sometimes. Maybe someday I'll be able to enjoy my not-always-fun occupation again...

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  3. Actually, you CAN deduct it. I deducted for 2 years before I started making money at it. Businesses can lose money, after all. The key is that you treat it like a business, not a hobby. Email me if you want more details.

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  4. Laura: Can I snort? Don't do that kind of self-torture thing! Writing can be torturous enough. It's difficult to see your own work objectively. You're a wonderful writer, and I expect to see you in print soon, my dear.

    Gaylene: Pretty disgusting, huh? Almost didn't post that, it's so gross, but then I couldn't resist. I hope you'll start writing again soon. When you do, I'm happy to read for you anytime. You have so many creative ideas, I love seeing what you'll come up with next.

    Matt: I knew my accountant was an idiot. I'll be emailing you soon. Thanks! Congrats on all the awards for Icefall, by the way. I knew I liked that book.

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  5. Well said, Elena. :) I decided recently to decide (deciding to decide is a good thing) that my 'day job' is actually my hobby, and writing is my real job. So when I'm at 'work' then I say aloud 'this is my hobby, this is my hobby...'

    I look forward to coming home to my real job. Every day I 'work'.

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