Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 94

Been sick for a few days, and I'm just catching up with the blog and my writing.

Someone asked an interesting question today: "When do you start considering yourself a writer?"

It's a tricky question, and there's no one politically correct answer. Someone would say they're writers simply because they write. Those who get paid for their writing are called "professional writers." Some people say people who write for fun are hobbyists, just like people who like to sing at Karaoke or dance at their local social functions or play guitars at their friends' garage. So where do you draw the line?

To me, it's really a very personal question. When do WE (individual) consider ourselves serious about this trade/craft to call ourselves a writer instead of a hobbyist? By definition, a writer is someone who writes. A singer is someone who sings. A painter is someone who paints. A guitarist is someone who plays the guitar. But that definition doesn't bode with with people who makes these endeavors into professions. Actors, I know, are very sensitive about people calling themselves "actors" just because they acted in a play in 12th grade. In fact, some of my actor friends are visibly upset and offended when they hear some fresh-faced person arriving in Hollywood with stars in their eyes -- meanwhile they have had no training or experience in acting at all.

Now, writing is a weird thing, I must say. Most people learn to write when they're little. Unlike acting, it's a basic skill to be learned and mastered during school. By high school, most people would have learned to write competently (hopefully) and have probably written a bunch of things (poetry, essays, school papers, articles, fiction, etc.) -- so does that mean literally everyone is a writer? So what makes me a writer as compared to others?

Or am I simply a professional writer because I get paid?

Now here's some funny data:

- I got paid $5.00 for the first piece of writing I ever sold
- My first writing job paid me $25 per article

In comparison:

- My first "real" acting job paid me $950 for two weeks' performances
- My second job paid me $5000.

When you compare how much I made from my writing vs. acting, you'd have thought that I'd consider myself an actor more than a writer. You would be wrong. Being an actor continues to be a "hobby" in my mind even though I've had some success with it, and I'm technically a "professional actor" with a SAG membership to prove it. I don't make enough from my writing to pay for my Starbucks addiction.

To me, it all comes down to the mindset. I'm dead serious about making writing my trade. I'm working on a novel, a bunch of short stories, essays, articles, reviews. I write every day. I learn everything I can whenever I can. I write every day. When I'm not writing, I'm always actively thinking on my stories, developing them in my mind. To me, my efforts in my pursuit as a writer is far more effective and serious than that as an actor. And yet, I get paid far more for my "acting" than my writing.

But I would call myself a writer any day instead of an actor. In fact, I have no qualms with calling myself a writer, but I feel embarrassed whenever I call myself an actor. Why? I'm not sure. Certainly it's not a matter of lack of stuff to show for it -- I have a novel and a bunch of stories published. There are also movies and commercials and TV shows. I have residual and royalties checks to show for it.

It comes down to what I really want to do... maybe one day I would proudly call myself an actor without any kind of embarrassment. Just not today.

No comments: