Pro Writing, Quizzes, Process and End Result

Well, no, I am not a pro writer. I realize this. (As does Mystery Writers of America, which insists on granting me affiliate membership instead of active membership.) But my status as a writer has nothing to do with any of the conditions on Lisa Morton’s little quiz, and I am grateful to John Scalzi for calling her on it. I have a very dear friend who is convinced that I will never have any success as a writer unless I transform myself into a raging extrovert. That’s his process. But it is not mine. And ::sticks tongue out at Dave:: I’m totally good with that.

Tonight, though, I think I will compare my process to Lisa Morton’s and see if any enlightenment ensues. (NB: I was going to link to said quiz, but it seems to have disappeared from its original location. If it turns up unharmed, I will post a link. In the meantime, I will reproduce the questions as I found them on another blog post.)

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

This question is poorly worded. My home is clean because my awesome boyfriend employs a housekeeping service. My work space is messy for lots of reasons, one of which is that I have lots of books and papers and laptops to fit into a very tiny space. Another of which is that I am just not a very tidy person.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

Hell, no. For one thing, lots of my friends are writers. I am, in fact, at this very moment, out with a writer friend. And we are writing. My plans for tomorrow night are similar. And there will be fancy coffee. Or at least hot chocolate or a peach smoothie. So, again with the poorly worded question. But considering what Morton probably meant to ask — which is “Do you think being a writer and having an actual life are mutually exclusive concepts?” — I still have to answer in the negative. Creativity does not occur in a vacuum. I really hope I don’t need to explain that.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?

I am beginning to think that Ms. Morton and I inhabit completely different galaxies. I can’t even remember the last time I turned a TV on. Maybe to check the weather at LCC back in March? It’s certainly been years since I owned a TV. So this question gets a great big ::shrug:: out of me.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

Hahahahaha….No. Look, I know my work is far from perfect. I do appreciate constructive criticism, and I can honestly point to specific examples of times where I have responded to praise with a “No, really, I’m asking you to be brutal.” But if I’m being really, truly, totally, completely, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die honest? Yeah, I liked the praise better.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites [sic] (either research or networking potential)?

Yes! Finally, an unequivocal yes! Wheeee! Though I suspect Ms. Morton and I have differing ideas on what this means. I think everything is a chance to observe and/or participate in humanity. So I guess you could say that I plan my entire life around writing opportunities. (See answer #2 above re: creativity and vacuums.)

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

Ugh, no. I recognize business talk as a necessary evil if I hope to be taken seriously in the business of writing. But before I can engage in the business of writing, I need to engage in the business of writing. Know what I mean? Besides, creativity…vacuum…yeah.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?

Less money than what? More time/energy/material than what? ::scratching head in confusion::

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

Ms. Morton, I am sensing a rather disturbing theme in your line of questioning. This isn’t about me at all, is it? Or even my fellow “hobbyists.” This is all about you, isn’t it? You and your strange sense that privation is somehow the equivalent of professionalism and that professionalism is, paradoxically, the opposite of success. As for the construction of this particular equation, I’m sorry to say that I never took anything beyond high-school Algebra II and I don’t know where to begin graphing it.

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

All what things? Being a joyless hermit who lives in a filthy hovel and subsists on stray crickets? Happily, no. I’d tell you all about my last five years, but my time is better spent writing. Or going out with friends. Or picking out carpeting and window treatments for our spiffy new house. 😛

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Wow. Look, toots, you can live knowing whatever you like about your ambitions, but keep your grubby paws off ofmy ambitions! You don’t know me. You don’t know my ambitions. And you sure as hell don’t know how capable or incapable I am of achieving them. Here’s the really strange thing, though. I don’t know you, and I don’t know your ambitions. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet that when you wrote this quiz, you were seriously questioning your own capabilities. I hope you are in a better frame of mind these days. (If not, try going out with a friend. Catch a silly movie and drink some fancy coffee. It’ll do you wonders.)

Whatever

By way of my friend Mary Anne Mohanraj, I come across this list of questions which purports to tell you whether or not you are a professional writer. The author, Lisa Morton, writes, “Ideally, you should be answering ‘yes’ to all ten, but I’ll cut you a little slack and say you can get off with 80% and still call yourself professional.'”

Well, I’ve always wondered if I was a professional writer, so I decided to take the quiz. My answers:

1. No. My workplace is messy because I am lazy, period.
2. No. I don’t write in the evenings, and I like seeing friends.
3. No. I rarely watch TV anyway.
4. Yes.
5. No. Vacations mean I am not working. If I am working it’s not a vacation.
6. No. I like my friends and care about their lives and our friendship.
7. No. My…

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4 thoughts on “Pro Writing, Quizzes, Process and End Result

  1. Yeah, I’m trying to fix the formatting. But the Internet here keeps cutting out, and they’re getting ready to close. This will have to wait till I get home.

  2. And finally, seven revisions later, I seem to have figured out how to fix the formatting. Not that I know how I broke the formatting in the first place.

    The other weird thing I can’t figure out is why the link in Scalzi’s post works just fine from my phone and my boyfriend’s machine, but the same site looks very broken from both my netbook and my home laptop. I suspect it is an evil Linux conspiracy.

    Anyway, if your machine is cooperative, you should be able to see the original article on the HWALA site, in all its condescending glory. I must say I’m glad that it’s still there. When it seemed to have disappeared, I was worried that there had been enough backlash that Ms. Morton had removed it. While my response may come across as a bit harsh, I do want to clarify that I’m not hating on Ms. Morton. I may have been a little offended by her contemptuous tone and the self-righteousness she clearly felt her suffering had earned her, but my overwhelming reaction was bafflement at the absurdities of her false equivalencies and dichotomies. I may not have studied any advanced math, but I did get an A in Logic.

  3. Haha, that was great! I read the questions before reading your responses to them, and I’m happy to say that we had very similar reactions. I’m not a professional writer, and I have no desire to be one, but her questions to delineate a professional from a hobbyist definitely reveal more about the composer of the questions herself than anyone who may take a stab at answering them. Plus, her definition of the life of a professional writer sounds joyless and dull, even to her (though I’m sure that wasn’t her intention).

    I especially liked this bit: “This is all about you, isn’t it? You and your strange sense that privation is somehow the equivalent of professionalism and that professionalism is, paradoxically, the opposite of success.”

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