Gentleman Writer

Kitchen bookshelf from a summer cabin.

I’m not a professional writer. To date, I’ve made less than $100 dollars from my work. While I have a consistent practice, I spend less than 1 hour a day writing, editing or submitting stories. Conversely, I spend 8-10 hours a day working my actual profession.

When I started in technology in the late 1990s, I knew nothing about the craft of writing code, the private workplace (my first job was as a health inspector for a local NJ government), or the industry. I spent hours a day hammering away at code and learning the technology. I read at least 1-2 tech books a month, subscribed to multiple industry magazines (actual paper magazines), free conferences and talked shop with my coworkers. I immersed myself in the profession.

I haven’t done the same for writing. My focus has been on the actual craft… the most important part, of course. But I’ve ignored entire swaths of the process. How and why certain pieces and authors get published. How the industry works. What is the current field of play for publishing in magazines, publishing a book via traditional means, or publishing independently?

Hugh Howey, one of my mentors in writing, speaks to this directly.

One of my stated goals is to have more people read my work. But I don’t understand the criteria and motivations of the traditional gatekeepers (editors, publishers, agents). And I haven’t done the work to grok how independent publishing works or promoted this website. Nor created a writing network, like my coworkers when I started in technology.

Logically, I know I need to expand my knowledge and experience of the industry. I wanted to find my authentic voice and have more published work before focusing on the business of writing (see chicken and egg). Another part wants to treat writing as a serious hobby, much the same way I used to treat triathlons. The concept of a “Gentleman Writer”, in the same vein as the Gentleman Farmer, is lodged in my head. Finally, I use it as an excuse… if I don’t understand what readers and publishers and the industry wants and how they work, I’ll just write what I want, and maybe an audience will magically appear.

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