Writers and Ranchers

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 !

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14 thoughts on “Writers and Ranchers”

  1. Great entry, Donna. I wouldn’t have made the parallel either, but you’ve certainly shown that the professions have a lot in common.

  2. Very original ideas, Donna, both your blog and your book. Who’d have thought of using an Argentine Gaucho? Those guys are so macho, and Latin lovers to boot. Sigh.
    Love the writer’s butt graphic. Thanks for a smiling start to my day.

  3. I have a combination of “Writer’s Butt” and “Secretarial Butt.” Neither one is pretty. But what is a girl suppose to do? Can’t stand up and type.
    I like the Argentine Gaucho idea. Their “cowboys” do a lot of the same things our cowboys do. Or so my husband has always said. (He’s been a cowboy all his life).

  4. Hi Donna, interesting parallel and the more you think about it, the truer it seems. I just finished writing a ranch book and it’s amazing the number of things that can go wrong. So many things that happen are out of a rancher’s control. Ditto for writers.

    Congratulations on your new book.

  5. Writer’s Butt is a definite problem!

    And re: the Argentine gaucho – I was asked to do something different so I thought it was a great twist on the usual western that I do. We have the gaucho instead of the cowboy, the pampas instead of the prairie, Criollos instead of Quarterhorses…but a LOT of similarities. The same connection to the land, the same sort of “code”. I really liked Sophia and Tomas, too. 🙂

    My only “beef” is that I have a great NA cover, but the hero doesn’t look very Latin. 🙂

  6. Donna,

    I love this post. You state it like it is. People do not realize what kind of job we as writers have. You have to keep up with a lot of things and stay on your toes.

    Thank you for bringing this to light.

    Love your books and the covers are always awesome

    Walk in harmony,

  7. My husband is a rancher, with farm land, too.
    It is sooooo complex.
    I always tell him he’s the best mechanic in the world, except for mechanics.
    He’s the best plumber in the world, except for plumbers.
    He’s the best carpenter in the world, except for carpenters.
    He’s the best accountant in the world, except for accountants.

    Ditto: ten other careers. There are so many skills involved in the ranch business. I can’t believe all the man knows. He has to be certified to use chemicals for weeds and fertilizer and insecticide. He knows so much about genetics in cattle and feeding for weight gain and veterinary medicine.

    We had a lawn mower for YEARS that I could NOT start. Not a big deal if HE mows the lawn, but oh no, it’s my job.

    To get it started, he’d dang near disassemble the whole thing and get the motor going, then he’d start adding pieces until it was functioning. (God save me if it died)
    I wanted a new lawm mower and he’d just give me this almost pitying look and say, “It’s got a perfectly good engine. That engine will last a lifetime.”

    Whatcha gonna do with a cowboy?

  8. Good post. People take so many lines of work/ways of life for granted. The ones that have shaky or low incomes are often those that take the most dedication to do a good job and make a go of it. I am talking of jobs in addition to ranching, farming, and writing like teaching, librarians, and those in the non-profit sector. A real passion for the job and what it offers the community is often what it takes to do it well. More is needed than just basic training and the reward more is more than just the paycheck. The true hours you spend on the job are seldom matched by the paycheck received.
    I grew up in farm and apple orchard country. A late or early frost or freeze can damage the crop and the trees and there is very little one can do about it. Drought, wind, rain, creatures and market swings are all beyond your control. Publishing house closings, reader interests, market swings, a bad economy – not much an author can do about any of that. In both cases, the people doing the most important work to produce these products are getting a small percentage (too small) of the price the products are sold for. The middlemen should not be getting such a large chunk of the profits.

    You are so right. None of these jobs or the demands of them can be called simple.

  9. Hi guys – sorry I’m so late getting back in here! It’s been a manic few days with some unexpected complications!

    Mary – dontcha love handy men though? I’m married to one of those. He can fix just about anything.

    My dad was a farmer. He had to be a savvy businessman as well as an apple grower – so I hear you. HIs method of swearing machinery back together is legendary in our family!

    Thanks everyone for popping by and visiting with me!

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