You know how sometimes you realize something and wonder why you never really saw it before? That happened to me last week. I was doing a little research for my new book, piecing together my hero’s past, and I had just finished a week of admin. A whole week. And that’s when it hit me. I have something in common with the ranchers I write about – more than the love of the outdoors and wide-open skies.
Is that a skeptical brow I see arched in my direction? I know. Our professions couldn’t be more different, right? I sit on my butt in front of a computer all day. A rancher spends most of his day outside, in the fields and barns. I make things up, farmers are faced with reality every moment and deal with the here and now. Farmers are physically tough; I have a real ongoing issue with Writer’s Butt, and it ain’t pretty.
But we have a lot in common too. We’re in the business of producing goods, and if we don’t pay close attention to quality, our market dries up and we don’t get paid. And guess what. There’s not a writer or farmer I know who punches a clock. We do what has to get done when it has to get done.
More than that, though, is the change to our professions brought on by technology. Farmers aren’t just farmers and writers aren’t just writers. We are business people. There is more to being an author than writing the book. There’s more to being a farmer than milking the cow or harvesting the wheat.
Farmers need to be up to speed with developments – water management, land management, economics, livestock management, genetic developments, and dear Lord yes, finances. I don’t think a lot of people out there realize what goes into the jug of milk they buy, the tray of steak or the bag of apples they pick up at the grocery store.
Writers need to know the market, they need to promote themselves and keep pace with developments in the industry. The days are gone where you could write a book, send it off to your publisher and trust the rest. I spend a good portion of my time reading up on the changes in the industry, figuring out where to spend my promotional dollars, doing paperwork, developing relationships with readers, and yes, writing new books. Because writing is my business.
It was really cool to make the parallel, and it happened when I was looking at some of the programs offered at Olds College in Alberta. The term “simple farmer” gets my goat. There is nothing simple about farming and the men and women who do it – and let’s face it, not many farmers are getting rich at it – are savvy and dedicated.
Just like a writer should be.
And just another reason why I love writing modern westerns.
You can check out my latest “innovative” cowboy in Honeymoon with the Rancher, featuring an Argentine Gaucho who uses his smarts to keep the family estancia going as a guest ranch. It’s out in the UK this month and will be in the US and Canada in May. And you can always catch up with my at my site, www.donnaalward.com !