My husband and I pay to have our taxes done. We sit down and get all our paperwork laid out. Find the receipts. We answer the questions. And I get sad because I don't contribute financially to our household. Yes, I contribute in countless other ways, but on tax day, I feel like a failure.
Three years ago I asked the professional about deducting my writing expenses. She didn't recommend it. With no income from my writing, it would increase our chances of being audited. I was okay with that.
Two years ago, I didn't even ask. I still earned nothing, and I sat there with a sadness in my heart that I'd been working so hard for years with no money to show for it.
Last year, I earned a small amount for a short story. Finally, I could deduct my business expenses!
The man helping us raised his eyebrows at my tiny check. He barely looked at my tidy list of expenses, shook his head and said, "Writing is your hobby, right? I mean, you have a full time job."
I clenched my jaw, my chest burning. "No, writing is my job. I write full time."
And I could see it--the pity or wow-you-must-not-be-very-good flash in his eyes before he dismissed me. "If you don't make more income than your expenses, the IRS will consider it a hobby."
I cried all the way home.
I wasn't crying because he was rude (well, partly so), but because I'd poured years and years of work into something that held no value to anyone but me. In fact, it cost our family for me to spend all that time trying to get published.
Not everyone incurs the same costs, but every writer pays something.
Here is what I paid:
- Time. I could have gotten a full-time job and earned a second income, which would have helped our family tremendously.
- Money. I've paid thousands of dollars in equipment, membership dues, office supplies, conference costs, postage, website hosting and other expenses.
- Hobbies. I gave up most of my free time to pursue this dream. I have busy kids, I manage our household, and I write full time. For me to have time-consuming hobbies, I would have to write less, make my kids give up extracurricular activities they enjoy, or let our house slide.
So this year, ripping open that tax form was validating beyond words. I don't have to sit through another tax session feeling inferior. I don't have to hear the word "hobby" again. Because finally, finally I get to pay taxes for doing what I love!
What have you given up for a dream?
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