Characteristics of the Working Writer

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

October 7 question – When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

Characteristics of the Working Writer

I’ve been a working writer since I was 26 years old with a newborn and a toddler. From the beginning, my goal was to earn an income from my writing. That made me different from the hobbyist writer.

According to IRS, a hobbyist writes for pleasure, for fun, not to make a profit. The working writer is trying their best to earn an income. The IRS has nine factors to judge whether you are a hobbyist or a working writer:

Question:  How do you distinguish between a business and a hobby?

Answer:  In making the distinction between a hobby or business activity, take into account all facts and circumstances with respect to the activity. A hobby activity is done mainly for recreation or pleasure. No one factor alone is decisive. You must generally consider these factors in determining whether an activity is a business engaged in making a profit:

  • Whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner and maintain complete and accurate books and records.
  • Whether the time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable.
  • Whether you depend on income from the activity for your livelihood.
  • Whether your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the startup phase of your type of business).
  • Whether you change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability.
  • Whether you or your advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business.
  • Whether you were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
  • Whether the activity makes a profit in some years and how much profit it makes.
  • Whether you can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.

An additional determination is whether the writer keeps separate bank accounts of business versus personal and if records are kept regarding their hours, projects, and submissions.

Five-hundred hours is the dividing line between hobbyist and working writer, too, and whether these hours are documented. How do I know?

When filling out a Schedule C through Turbo Tax, I was asked the question: did you work 500 hours this tax year in this business?

Five hundred hours per year equals just under 10 hours per week or almost 42 hours per month.

A working writer makes time or schedules writing time.

In my opinion, all three types of writers attend conferences, read how-to books, and ask questions, and love to talk about writing.

This list is what I believe are the differences:

Aspiring Writer

  • thinks about writing
  • doesn’t keep business records
  • asks questions in any group, thus doesn’t do any of their own research to learn the answers
  • are quite active in online groups
  • writes a little

Hobbyist Writer

  • writes when feels inspired, which means not every day
  • doesn’t keep good business records
  • likes to talk about writing
  • asks questions of other writers in those group of their genre, has done some research but relies on the other writers’ responses

Working Writer

  • writes nearly every day or per a planned schedule
  • writes even when not inspired; they know they’ll be in the zone soon.
  • writes even when sick, a loved one has died, divorcing, or some other life event has appeared in their life. They find solace in their writing.
  • has reams and files of their work even if not published
  • usually not in various online forums; if they are, they rarely read the posts or respond; they’re busy writing!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!


About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
This entry was posted in #IWSG, Struggling to write, writing, Writing Behind the Scenes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Characteristics of the Working Writer

  1. nancygideon says:

    We both have been working writers from the get go. Even if not actively manipulating words for my sacred two hours per day (at LEAST!), I am doing the business end of writing – promo, Zoom meetings, research, and yes, even binge watching to find that next hero. All that is just as much a part of being a working writer as word crafting. And much MORE work than writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The IRS might not consider me a business, but they sure want to tax any royalties I receive.
    That’s the best breakdown of the three stages I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Diane Burton says:

    Such a pragmatic way of looking at things, Diana. When I started writing, I was determined to earn an income. I did all the biz stuff, still do. I’ve studied my craft. And, until recently, I’ve put in my time. 500 hours? Probably not, even though the intent is/was there. Have a great writing month.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beth Camp says:

    I was drawn into that comment the working writer is too busy to participate much with groups. Maybe because of the pandemic, I do find myself nurtured by communities of writers, much like IWSG, and those few writing friends I can actually (perhaps once a month), meet face to face, masked. Yes, some people do like learning from groups; alas, I’m an introvert, much happier writing than marketing or networking at conferences. The IRS definition is quite precise, rather like one shoe, certainly practical, but perhaps not fitting every foot of every working writer.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ronel Janse van Vuuren says:

    That’s quite a definition!

    Ronel visiting on IWSG day Revamp Your Backlist

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Your encouragement to keep reaching for success is appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Diana Stout says:

    Glad you liked it, Rohn. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

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