As writers, we’re often referred to as some of the strangest, most misunderstood members of society, and it’s a theme that has certainly carried down from generation to generation. It’s probably to do with the creative lifestyle – always obsessing over a project and never being able to properly switch off. It’s like we have this constant creative buzz in the back of our minds that is ready to erupt at any moment, spilling countless ideas and caffeine-induced plot outlines out into the real world. I say real world because at least eighty percent of our minds are occupied by fiction that was either penned by us, or by some other richer, much more talented writer.
On the other hand though, although we are misunderstood, we don’t exactly do ourselves many favours…
From staring at walls and blank screens, to drinking from empty coffee cups and cursing at a pen – here are three struggles only a writer will understand.
#1: Reading a Happy Book and Feeling Nothing But Sadness
Right off the bat this just sounds pretty damn weird. Why on earth would you be sad if you’re reading a happy tale that is full of smiles and bright sun-lit skies? Well quite easily, if you’re a writer that is.
It all starts when you get halfway down page one-hundred-and-sixty-three (or some other random page number,) that’s when the brutality of reality sets in. You’ll have just read a scene between two of the characters where everything is going great, where the world is all sunshine and rainbows. Until… You come across what I like to call ‘the line’.
Now, the line is best described as that pesky line you’ve just read that is incredibly well-written, witty, emotive and concise all at once. It’s the type of line that you read and think, ‘damn, I wish I came up with that’.
Following this, you slowly begin to realise that in actuality, the entire book is written this way – an eloquent spindle in the wheel of sheer literary genius – and from there, it all goes downhill.
You ask yourself why your writing never turns out this good, and then tell yourself it never will. You tell yourself that you’ll never make it, that you’ll always just be some bum who goes through the same routine of writing ten thousand words and then starting from scratch over and over and over again. You come to the conclusion that your whole life has been a lie and decide from that moment onward to never write a single sentence ever again.
And boom, just like that, a happy book becomes sad.
#2: Working Thirty Plus Hours a Week for Free
What other job in the world would you do for thirty hours a week without getting a single penny? Whilst I acknowledge the fact that if you aren’t getting paid, then it’s technically not a job, but it’s a work in progress, and that’s still something.
Personally, I’ve been working on my same novel and poetry collection simultaneously for almost two years now, and I’d be willing to bet that I’ve put in at least one-thousand hours of work into the two combined.
I mean, if you were training to become a nurse or a chef, you wouldn’t work thirty hours a week, for an entire year, totally free of charge, would you? So why are writers crazy enough to do it? See the quote above, I don’t think it can be summed up any better than that.
#3: The Biggest Misconception
Perhaps the most dreaded thing in a writer’s world is when they meet new people. And no, that’s not because we’re reclusive, unhygienic hermits, who do nothing but sit wrapped in a quilt and write until our fingers bleed. Well, in fact, that might be part of the reason, but not the main part…
The main part is because when you meet new people, ninety-nine percent of the time they’re going to ask you what you do. It’s at this moment you have to decide whether or not you should just lie and make something up; it may save the hassle. Is it even worth it?
But no, you’re a writer. You’re a writer and you’re proud.
So you drop the whole day-job spiel. Oh you know, I stack shelves at the grocery store and help my mom with her business, just to get by, you know how it is. Then you sneak it in there, you cram it all together nice and fast. Not because you want to, but because you know what will happen if you make a huge fuss of it. You can’t neglect it though, it’s not true to who you are. You’re a writer, goddammit. You’re a goddamn writer.
“Oh my, you’re a writer?! You must be so freaking rich! How many books have you published? How many have you signed? Any movie deals? How fat is your wallet? Let me feel. Gosh, life must be so easy and stress-free for you, huh?”
That is the only reaction I’m able to muster…
It Isn’t All Bad
The majority of our pain is self-inflicted, and would all just go away if we either learned to stop overthinking every tiny detail of every tiny thing, or just gave up on writing all together. So basically, our pain is never going to go away, because neither of those things are ever going to happen. Like ever.
But that’s the most beautiful part.
When it comes down to it, when all is said and done; when we finally put that final full-stop on the final line of the final paragraph of our novel, sit back, stare at the ceiling in awe, breathe a huge sigh of relief and then fist-pump the air because we’re just totally amazing, isn’t it all so worth it?
For about half an hour that is, then we realise that every word we wrote is absolute trash and isn’t even worthy of winning a toddler’s writing contest, let alone fit for traditional publication.
Never mind though, there’s always the rewriting process…