As you may have discovered through one means or another, being a writer is not for everyone. Perhaps you have friends who wish they could be writers or others who swear off the skill entirely, barely forming coherent verbal sentences let alone written ones.
If you still think that being a writer is easy peasy you are either
1) extremely blessed
2) still in the dreaming phase, or
3) a writing veteran.
At least those would be my guesses. If you really take a non-candy-coated look at the profession, you might wonder why on earth anyone would want to be a writer.
Here’s what it is like to be a writer for many, if not most of us:
1. Many don’t take writing as a serious profession and will imagine that you are frittering your life away in some artsy bar pretending to be famous. Come on, we probably all know people who see “writing” as synonymous with “irresponsible”, especially when the writing involves novels.
2. Non-writers believe writers can sit down and crank out a short book in a month and wham-o, you’re published.
3. Writers have “cushy” jobs. Right. No specific schedule and no boss…unless you count the editor breathing down your neck for the rewrite you were supposed to complete last week before you got writer’s block. In reality, it means that we have no nicely laid out “job description” that tells us exactly what we need to do to be successful. We have no time clock and depend only upon ourselves to get up and somehow make sense of the day without any direction. This would be the equivalent of hiring someone, putting them in the office and saying, “Okay…go to work.”
4. Editing. Probably enough said right there. Editing is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the process which is almost sad, but it means you’re moving in the right direction so it’s good news for a writer.
5. You know those annual reviews you get at a regular job? They usually say a few nice things about your performance, followed by areas of improvement, and then punctuated with something else positive. Writers often receive piles of rejection letters, after which we are expected to dust ourselves off and submit to yet another agent or publishing entity. If we’re lucky we receive constructive criticism or any kind of criticism. Otherwise, we’re left wondering what we could have done better, or what we should change and we try to resist the urge to edit the manuscript for the fifty-first time.
6. Modern writers don’t just write. They compose a story, edit it, market it to an agent and/or an audience that they are expected to cultivate by becoming social media gurus. Writers are also bloggers, secretaries, researchers, record keepers, and sometimes web designers and graphic designers.
7. Writers still aren’t really considered a success unless they reach the sort of fame that J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Cassie Clare, David Baldacci and others have attained. So really, being a writer is like being an instant failure in the minds of many people.
8. Vacation and sick days don’t really exist for writers. There is no one else who will say, “Oh sure, I’ll write your 30 pages for you today, don’t worry.” Your work just piles up if you can’t do it for some reason.
9. If you do have a great success with a published book, people expect the same level of greatness for all subsequent books. No pressure or anything.
10. For many writers, the salary is almost nothing until they are able to get published via magazines, newspapers, or online sources. I wonder if your friends would still want to work at their jobs for months or even years before seeing a dime for all their work? I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing they might think it a little bit unfair.
11. In order for writers to be genuine, and write realistic characters, we often have to remember–and wallow in–painful experiences all for the sake of making those “real characters” that readers value.
If you feel like punching the next person who nods and says “Ah,” when you say you’re a writer, you can point out a few of these tidbits to enlighten those misguided individuals about being a writer.
It takes brave, persistent, creative people to understand the profession of writing and accept it, despite the difficulties. Writers are underpaid, overworked, under-appreciated, often frazzled entrepreneurs.
If you know a writer, remember that they are amazing, persistent, resilient, strong, and full of imagination, possibilities and wonder. I would say the world is a much better place because of such qualities (I’m totally not biased here), and I am incredibly honored to be even remotely acquainted with so many talented, hard-working people.
Props to all the writers out there. If you put in the time and you write…you are a writer. Not everyone can do it; it is hard work, but we know that it’s definitely worth it. Happy writing to all, and have a marvelous week, full of possibilities! 🙂