I've been sitting on this post for a while, honestly. The first couple of times I thought about writing it, I wondered if I was overreacting or something, but after another instance or two of this kind of disrespect...well, I have to say something. Long-time followers of my blog/Twitter will know that I'm lucky enough to be a full-time writer. This means I don't have a "day job", but can devote all of the time I would spend at a desk job or what have you to my craft. Wootness ensues. (I'm also a stay-at-home mom, which in itself is a full-time job.) This arrangement has some drawbacks--the most obvious being that my income is not stable. I don't know when the next check is coming or how much it will be. Oh, and no benefits like sick time or paid leave etc.
But I get to wake up every morning and do something I love while being an active parent to my daughter. This is priceless to me, and while it might be nice to have something akin to "job security"...well, I'm not sure I'd trade this for a 9-to-5 behind a desk.
There is a problem, though, which is the crux of my forming rant. Because I don't have what most people in society would classify a "real job", I don't get taken seriously. Even some of my friends and family still see me as a stay-at-home-mom who happens to also write. This mindset--however small or harmless it may seem--trickles into their actions. These are the people who immediately assume that because I am not working a traditional job, I am free during the day to be on call for them. "Oh, we'll just take Jamie on Monday and do this." Will you? Because last I checked I had to work on Monday. "Oh, well why don't you just do this on Wednesday?" Because I have a deadline on Thursday, that's why. And while I love that I am able to help out my friends and loved ones with things they might need during the week when others are working, sometimes it seems people forget that I'm taking a day off work to help them.
Just because it's not traditional employment doesn't mean I don't have a job. I'm sitting at a desk working at my computer for hours a day. Sure, the dress code is kick ass, I can crank tunes and watch movies, or surf the internet on my breaks without worrying about management monitoring my tweets, but still, it's work. Churning out books and stories is not a hobby. It's not a pet project or a pipe dream. It's my job. It's what I get paid to do. Part of being a professional author is networking, maintaining a social media presence, doing research, doing interviews or guest blog posts--or posts for my own blog. So yeah, some of that from the outside might look like fun, but it's part of the gig. It might seem like nothing much that I get to spin stories in what is essentially a very big and internal game of Make Believe...but this is my job.
Let me put it another way...
...if you're traditionally employed, you get up every day and go to work. You're expected to be there and doing your assigned tasks for roughly 8 hours with breaks and lunch. Yes? If you need to run an errand or move or go house hunting or something, you schedule those things outside of your own working hours by either doing them before/after work or on the weekend. Right? If you have a doctor's appointment, you have to take a special absence from work (paid or otherwise). Now...if I came to you on Sunday and said, "oh hey, tomorrow I need you to spend the whole day running around town with me," you'd think I was nuts (at best), dense or just plain disrespectful of your time and needs.
Again, please don't think this means I don't want to help friends in need. If I can I am happy to, but there are some people who have made a habit of this. They seem to assume that my days are all completely open and that I'm just aching for ways to fill the hours between dropping off and picking up my daughter.
Frankly, it pisses me off. It tells me that you don't take me seriously as a professional writer. You may as well pat me on the fucking head and say, "How cute". It's disrespectful to assume that I will bend over backwards to do something for you at the drop of a hat simply because I don't have somewhere I have to be for 8 hours a day like most day walkers. You're asking me to take an unpaid sick day. My paychecks are few and far between as it is, asking me to take a day off from writing means that's one more day between me and a finished story. Stories can take weeks or months to sell if they sell at all. And even after the contract is signed it can be months before I see a check. That's how my job works. Just like your job has its pay periods and quirky rules of engagement.
There's a movement to respect and support creators by paying them for their work. Buy the books or paintings or sketches or necklaces. Don't expect something for free. Well, there's more to supporting artists than just spending money. You need to not only respect the work and creator, but the time it takes to create the work itself. Don't sit there and tell me that I should get a "real job" when I lament my car troubles or say I can't spend the extra money on this or that.
I have a job. I'm a professional writer.