When I first told people I wanted to be a writer I received one of two reactions. The first was The Scoffer – ‘why on earth would you want to do that?’ The second, the Misconstrued Enabler – ‘of course, you want to be a writer, it’s easy and you get to wear pajamas all day!’
Of course, as writers, we know that both of these responses are ridiculous, wrong and based on uneducated naivety. Having said that, before we leap to our own defenses we must also acknowledge that some of what they say is true.
This is the person that thinks all in negatives. They believed that all writers are poor, unequivocally and without question. They think that as a writer you will never have a hope, will only burn a hole in any real career and will amount piles of debt chasing a futile dream…and that you will also starve…and die.
Whilst it is easy to judge this person too harshly, it is also easy to see where they are coming from. Depending on the person delivering ‘the scoff’, a friend or family member lets say, then the likely hood is that this message comes from a well-intended place. The Scoffer whilst blunt doesn’t want us to fail in our attempt and feel the heartbreak that will inevitably ensue. We thank them for this through our gritted teeth because as writers we know our own worth.
“A good story is always more dazzling than a broken piece of truth.”
― Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
But they are also right. Most writers aren’t millionaires. They usually have to have a second job to support themselves in their dream. But they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t mean something to them in the first place.
This is what the Scoffer doesn’t see. They think a writer is only thinking of the good outcomes of being published. But unbeknownst to them, most writers are fully aware of the unglamorous sides of their career path. The long hours of toil for little or no reward are not something we need spelling out for us. And what is more The Scoffer rarely has an inkling to the extremes of this; the late nights on social media, brainstorming with every free minute of your day, the countless rejections that put you off but the need to keep striving, to finally get a pay check. It can be tortuous but we love it.
The Misconstrued Enabler
These are the ones that give you false encouragement. They think the life of a writer is, in fact, the life of a free loader and in many ways, they are worse than The Scoffer. They think the only reason you want to write is so that you don’t have to get a real job, that you can do bugger all other than watching TV and that frankly, your time is for the taking. That’s right, these are the people who have convinced themselves that all you do as a writer is drink coffee and sit on your arse and as a result, if they want you to do something at short notice, then they will give you grief if you bring up work as a reason to say no.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway
These are the people that truly believe that writing is easy. That you get to spend your days in leisure. And whilst it is true many writers prefer writing to other types of work, what the Misconstrued Enabler doesn’t see is the hours of work put in behind the scenes. They don’t realize that once they come home and cook dinner, the evening is than theirs, where as writers we often doesn’t have that luxury.
A writer is on the clock 24/7. If they are a freelance writer this may we be literately the case, with jobs coming in all hours of the day and night, with deadlines to match! For the novelist, their brain is constantly on high-performance mode, even when they are, say, cutting their lawn. Because as writers we always have to be coming up with new ideas, analysing our stories, thinking of how we can become better. After all, this is why we carry note books everywhere with us. Inspiration doesn’t work the 9 till 5.
However, to make the matter worse, enabler are also the ones that give you the encouragement, if somewhat falsely, on the off chance that you do make it big with a published piece of work, that you then remember your ‘good friend’ who enabled you in the first place.
Yes, I concede that the enabler has a point about the pajama thing, but a professional writer will never stay in they sleepwear if they can help it. We all know that not getting dressed in the mornings keep us from our optimal output. Granted our hygiene habits can be a bit lack at times but we usually do get dresses. The boons of working from home rarely get in our way.
What Other People Don’t See
“Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent.”
― Neil Gaiman
So whilst we are plugging away at the keyboard every second we can spear, working a part time job where we have to worry about other peoples stuff, and managing our own lives in tandem to hundred of voices in our heads, we also have to put up with some of the following:
- Lack of Inspiration
- Feeling Creatively Stifled
- No Real World Communication
- Lack of Exercise
- Barely Any Money
- Competitive Industry
- Self Doubt
- No Response
- Hate Mail/Comments
- Promotion Pains
- Barely Seeing Your Family
- Bad Nutrition
- Editing woes
- Paper Cuts
The list goes on, but my point is, unless someone has tried writing at some point in their lives, the vast majority do not see the cons of being a writer. There are days when we want to throw in the towel and say enough because we are doubting ourselves. The days when we feel we should go get one of those real jobs our Nan keeps telling us about so that we stop being the financial burden to our family’s. And then there are the worst days of all when we just don’t know who we are anymore if we can’t be a writer.
Advice For The Writer In Your Life
Whether you are reading this as a writer or a nonwriter with a creative person in your life, the key is understanding. Universally it is a truth that we should not judge books by their covers but it is also true that we should not judge someone else’s career based on prejudice.
Writing is a wonderful choice, full time, part time or as a hobby, it is so for-filling. Even if my work is only read by one person who has enjoyed it I know the hours and effort have been more than worth while.
After all, writing is not just something you do for yourself. You do it for your readers, your characters and the world you have created. You do it for the sharing of information, the advice or the knowledge that only you can give. This is why most writers write. Not to sit about in their pajamas all day whilst some ignoramus tells us why we are a poor free-loader who should jump to their beck and call. Yes, writing does have its painful and unglamorous moments, and it is important to acknowledge that, especially if your live with or have a friend who is a writer and you are not. But more importantly is to remember the value of a writer. To encourage them.
The written word is everywhere. On blogs, forums, books. Writers help the deaf to watch the news on TV or medical students to become doctors. Writers transport us to higher levels of understanding or to different worlds that help us relax. They aid us in becoming our best selves, to learn and share what we know.
“Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.”
― Ben Okri
Support the writer in your life; they have a hard road they have chosen to travel but there really is no limit to where they might go.