So you’re thinking about being a writer. Why? It’s not glamorous, you won’t achieve wealth and fame, and there will be no lines of fans waiting for you to autograph your bestseller. (Unless you’re James Patterson or Stephen King. Otherwise, no.) Before you embark on this path, let me dispel a few myths you might have heard about being a writer.
- It’s easy.
Ha! This blog entry is the sixth I’ve attempted to start this week. Entries about shoe shopping, Andy Warhol, awesome 80s music, and good dental hygiene were already attempted and failed to take off, imploding instead into a withering mush of gobbledygook. Writing is hard. Having a good idea and executing it well are two very, very different things.
- If you have a good idea, you should write a book about it.
Not necessarily. Has the story been told before? Will you be bringing something new, dynamic, and interesting to the tale? More importantly, how are your grammar skills? Can you find at least five mistakes in this paragraph: “Walking up the driveway, the house seemed different than I remembered. It didn’t used to have shutters. Also, there was a police officer in the corner trying to diffuse a bomb.” No? Perhaps some basic writing and English classes are in order first.
- You’ll be able to quit your day job.
Double ha! Writers don’t write to get rich. They write because they have to. Last month, I earned $12.15 from writing. I used my fortune to restock my shampoo supply. True, I splurged and went with something a little fancier than V05. But let me tell you, there are months when I can’t even afford to indulge my love of Garnier Nutrisse.
- All writers are brilliant, tortured souls.
Am I brilliant? Sure. I’m not going to lie about that. But am I tortured? Nah. I’ve got a couple of demons—maybe demons is too strong of a word; pesky ‘quirks’ might be better—but nothing that a regular diet of caffeine and antidepressants can’t handle. Countless writers are normal, well-adjusted folks. Many a person has met me and said, “Gee, what a normal, well-adjusted writer. And what a stunning Wonder Woman tiara she was wearing!”
- Writers wait for inspiration to write.
You want inspiration? It’s called a deadline. If you can’t meet it, you don’t get paid. Sometimes, you meet it, and you still don’t get paid. Fun and rewarding, right?
- My book will sell itself.
Oh, you naïve little belly button. Perhaps the idea of secluding yourself like Salinger and writing in your dark, lonely mansion appeals to you. This, however, is not realistic. Salinger was an exception—and also didn’t publish a thing after 1965. That’s forty-five years of seclusion without a blip on the bestseller list. Sounds lonely and depressing, right? Plus, who is paying for that mansion?
In this day and age, the only thing that will sell your book is YOU. Your publisher will try to help, but mostly, it’s up to you to do the dirty work: meet people; make contacts; go to libraries, fairs, conventions, writing workshops, book stores, coffee shops; maintain an online presence showcasing how wonderfully talented you are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, your own website, and more; and through it all, not coming across as too jerky or salesman-y. Good luck! Most writers I know are introverts, myself included. I have one writer friend who always brings me fancy chocolates whenever we do an event together, and honestly, there are many days when the only reason why I get out of bed to go to an event is because I know that chocolate is waiting.
- I’ll have plenty of time to write.
Well, sure you will, if you don’t mind missing things like family events, baseball games, and sleep. Think about it: you hardly have time right now to play with your kids, do the laundry, or eat dinner. If you decide to write, too, something’s going to have to give. I myself have found that sleep is overrated.
There you have it. Writing is hard, it doesn’t pay well, and you have to spend precious writing time selling your butt off. On the plus side, there’s chocolate. So why do it?
Because if you love to write, being a writer is the most awesome job you’ll ever have. Every day, I get to spend time with characters that live in my mind, bringing them to life on the page. I’ve fallen in love, invented new places, and killed off people I hate, all before my morning coffee. How cool is that? Plus, writing is a craft of engagement and edification. There’s always room to grow, to learn more, to try new things, new voices, and new styles. Every week, I learn something new about this craft that I love. Then I get to try it.
As the great poet and novelist Theophile Gautier once said, “Sooner barbarity than boredom.” You’ll never get bored as a writer.
And there’s chocolate.