Treating Writing Career Like A Business


I am a screenwriter and my husband and I submitted our joint tax return this past October.
Yesterday we met with our accountant who said I cannot put expenses like screenwriting coaching or conferences I attend as my business expense because I don’t have a business.
I asked her, ‘What do you mean? This is what I do.’
And she said, ‘You can call it a hobby if you want, but as long as you don’t generate any earning from this, you have no business.’

After she left I felt upset and resentful and my thought was, ‘How dare she tell me it’s a hobby? She doesn’t even know how hard it is for me to come up with stories or sit myself to write and how hard this all is.’

But several models later I realized I am resentful because I believe she’s right.
I haven’t been treating my pursuit of screenwriting like a business.
I waited, sometimes weeks, for inspiration.
I skipped my schedule to write and went to get a manicure or run errands instead, countless times.
When I do write something I keep waiting for others’ permission to validate my talent.
And sure enough, she’s right – I earn nothing as a screenwriter.

I called her today and actually thanked her for what she said yesterday.
I then asked her: What would it look like if what I do was a business?

She said, ‘Well, think of it like a shop. You might not know it but you basically decided to open a shop for screenplays. You write them and then you put them on display and offer them. At the moment, your shop is closed most days. You don’t even have products to put on display, and you sometimes open the shop, sometimes you just don’t show up. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I walk into Barnes & Noble, I want to know there will be someone there during their hours of operation, that there will always be books on display that I could purchase, and that there will be someone to talk to and pay to. And the way you as a screenwriter become a business to an agent or manager is by opening the shop every day and producing products you can put on display that can be sold.’

My notion of my choice to be a screenwriter was completely off, then.
I believed in the romantic long walks to get inspiration, in the whole idea of a writer’s mood, of having a whiskey in my hand and a purring cat in my lap and being wild, rebel, and outsider in order to be a writer.

Thinking of it as a business means wearing something more formal, dressy, work from nine to five, sit with two feet on the floor, in a chair, next to a formal desk.
It suddenly doesn’t appeal to me at all. It’s why I escaped the corporate world.
Is it possible that I am missing something here?