Remember those dreams of grandeur during your first happy days as a writer? Those imaginings that your life would be full of lounging in a quaint coffee shop and clacking contentedly on your keyboard whenever you felt like it? The realization that you’d be paid to merely daydream and create? Talk about a life!
After all, the writer’s life is the easiest gig, right? Our job description is quite literally “make stuff up”. The majority of the time our work outfit is our pajamas, and our work space is the comfiest chair in the house. We make our own hours. Get to be at home. Drink all the coffee our heart desires. What a spoiled life we writers get to live! Such ease, such pleasure. Not a care in the world. Right? Riiiiight?
I think in our early days we did live under this illusion. And I know for a fact many non-writers believe this. It’s often thought that being a writer isn’t a “real” job. It’s not like we do anything or work very hard.
Being a writer is one of the most time-consuming, demanding jobs on the earth. Yes, there are definitely harder jobs out there. But here’s the thing about being a writer: You can’t just “clock out” when the work day is over. Most jobs involve clocking in and clocking out. And once you’ve punched that time clock and turned the lights out at the office, you’re free. No more obligations until the next day.
It doesn’t work like that as a writer.
The thing about writers is we always have something we could/should be doing. ALWAYS. Novel writing isn’t just, well, novel writing. Oh no. Honestly, for me, the whole actually writing a book is the easy part. (Okay, sometimes the easy part…sorta…ish. Let me live under my delusions!) There is so much more to the writer’s life.
To make my point, let me give you guys a list of the many, many things we writers must do. Because lists makes everything more fun.
. . . WRITE . . .
Yes, yes, I know I literally just said novel writing isn’t just novel writing. BUT. It’s kiiiinda the most important part of the job. One can’t exactly be a novel writer if one doesn’t write novels. CRAZY, RIGHT?
But seriously, if your goal is to be published, you have to have something to actually publish. And I say novels, but you may be a poetry writer, or do non-fiction, or short stories. Whatever your field is, you have to WRITE IT. And let me tell you guys, writing is no quick feat. Unless it’s during NaNoWriMo, it takes me a few months to get a novel done. And within those few months I’m spending hours and hours of the day purely writing. Then, when the novel is finally done…another idea decides to attack me and I start allllll over again.
I have over a dozen written stories under my belt. So…let’s just not even think about the amount of hours I’ve spent of my 25 years writing. o.O But merely writing is only the beginning of the writer’s life.
. . . EDIT . . .
Okay, so we’ve written a novel. Great! It’s done now, right?
Being a writer is anything but just writing and being done. We then have to turn right back around and completely tear apart our precious manuscript we just spent the last 4 months poring over. *faints* We have to actually fix that plot hole the size of Texas and turn that flat character into something more interesting than a lima bean and change every. single. sentence. into something actually worth reading. And thennnn DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. Yaaaay!
Because editing isn’t just editing once. OH NO. You’ll go over that single book so many times—editing, proofreading, perfected—you’ll be able to recite it word by word.
. . . RESEARCH . . .
Ah, researching. My least favorite part of the writing life (and one I probably should work harder on *cough*). Yes, even us fantasy writers have to research. (Swordfights I’ve written: Approximately 239834. Swordfights I’ve actually done in real life: 0. Yeah, we gotta research!)
The sad thing about researching is that we may spend 3 hours researching something just for…one paragraph in our novel. Yepppp. Researching consumes a lot of time.
. . . BUILD A PLATFORM/KEEP UP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA . . .
Odd as it may seem, we writers have to spend a huge chunk of time not working on our novels.
In this day and age of technology, publishers put a lot of stock in a writer’s platform (a.k.a how many readers they’ve accumulated, usually via social media). Books need to sell, and the only way a book can sell is if it’s in the public eye and people actually know about it. Thus, it’s pretty essential these days for writers to be on social media and constantly bringing in new followers. But not just that, I firmly believe writers need other writers in their lives, not just readers. Building a following is important, but joining a writing community and having a circle of fellow writers is how we writers thrive.
Aside from the actually writing/editing a book, I’d say this takes up most of a writer’s life.
A spend an immense amount of time working on my blog, writing blog posts, taking pictures for said posts, replying to comments, reading other blog posts and commenting on those, etc., etc. And that’s just with blogging! Then there’s twitter, Instragram, Facebook, Google+, on and on and on.
For me, I’m most active on blogger (though even then I often think I need to be more active). I sometimes do twitter (I’ve been trying to be more active, though totally failing…). I have my Instagram account but I…hardly ever use it. I want to though. I hope to one day be much more involved in the bookstagram community, I just haven’t settled into it yet. One day hopefully! My Google+ account…never gets use. Blogger is nice and automatically posts each of my blog posts on there but that’s all the activity it gets. Annnd I don’t even have a Facebook account. Yeeeah. Probably something I need one day if I ever get published. An author without an FB is unheard of. Or…a human without an FB. Heh.
But ANYWAYS. The point is, being active on social media and building a readership and making other writer friends takes SO. MUCH. TIME. Most of my days are filled with keeping up with blogs and emailing and beta-reading friends’ books, and so on and so forth. And yet, there is sooooo many other things I should be doing on top of all that.
To get published, it’s good to basically build your own resume. Such as having a large following on social media. But also having experience. I’d love to write for some magazines sometime because that’s a great thing to put on one’s “resume” a.k.a. your query letter. Or join a writers association like ACFW. Or enter writing contests. The list goes on and on and on.
The amount you can do to make writing friends and build a platform and have experience to make good query letters is literally infinite. And it’s all important for the writing life.
. . . LEARN THE CRAFT . . .
Writers never, ever stop learning. With some jobs, you may have a two week learning phase and then you’ve got it down. With writing, you keep learning until you’re in the grave.
(And at that point you’re doing some great research on how all the characters you killed off feel, so even more learning!)
There is no “getting there” with writing. No highest peak to reach. Because you can always improve. There are always more things to learn, more things to discover, other methods to try, new genres to explore.
We writers spend monstrous amounts of time studying the craft—reading writing articles, following writing blogs, listening to writing podcasts, studying writing books, taking writing classes.
With writing, you’re always going to be learning something new with each novel you write. Learning the craft never ends. Our life is basically an endless writing class.
. . . TAME THE PLOT BUNNIES . . .
Let’s be real. We writers spend 101% of our time trying to control the plague of plot bunnies. We’re writing one book, under the delusion we’re happy spending our time with it, when BAM! another story idea— a plot bunny—leaps up, all shiny and exciting, and we want to write that novel instead. But wait, there’s another plot bunny over there. And there! AND THERE. And ooooh, that one is fun. But that one is shiny. But that one has PIRATES.
Okay. The plot bunnies can’t be tamed. All our efforts are futile. Forget all the other stuff I listed. Most of the writing life is caving to the cute, fluffy plague of plot bunnies and next thing we know we’re working on 23 projects at once and wondering what we’re doing with our lives.
. . . . . . . . . . .
As you can see, the writing life takes a LOT of time and a LOT of work. So many hours spent staring at a computer screen to the point that your eyes begin to melt out of their sockets and your fingers wither away from all the typing. And my list doesn’t even cover half of it! I didn’t even get into the time spent plotting and marketing and searching for agents
I will repeat: We writers don’t clock out. While most people with normal day jobs are sleeping at 4a.m., we’re putting the finishing touches to that blog post we started at midnight because, whoops, it’s supposed to be published in the morning. While home is the place to relax and watch a movie for the average human, it’s our office. If we’re home, we probably should be working. (At least…that’s my mentality. *cough*) Outside of the home is when I leave the “office” and relax. When we’re not writing, we feel guilty because we should be writing. When we are writing, we wonder if we should be doing the one billion other things on our to-do list. Like answering one of those 2399834 emails in our inbox.
But I’m not here to overwhelm you guys! (Because I know this monstrous post about how much work we writers have to do has done suuuuch a good job of that. Ehehehehe. *COUGH*) I just want to debunk the mentality that being a writer is all ease and comfort and isn’t a “real job”. Or if you’re looking for a quick way to fame and fortune, prove that writing is not it. Short of being J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, there’s no fame with the job, and the term “starving artist” encompasses writers as well. Heh. Plus, there’s nothing quick about getting published.
So that brings the real question here. Why do we do it? Why do I spend so much of my life pursuing publishing? Why do I put all this pressure and stress on myself? Why DO we choose to write???
The answer is simple:
Because we love it.
I’ve always believed you can’t choose the writing life, it chooses you. If you have a passion to create stories, then you have to, no matter what.
I’ve been on a pretty long writing hiatus because my life has been crazy lately, but I’m chomping at the bit to get to writing again. I can’t not write. I have stories going through my head 100% of the time. Without writing, I’d feel like an empty shell.
Yes, I get overwhelmed and stressed all. the. time. And on the really hard days, I wonder if it’s worth it. But then a story idea grasps a hold of me and won’t let go, and I get lost in a new world and characters and the dance of words, and I know, without a doubt, no matter the amount of stress and work and late nights, it is always, always worth it. I love creating new stories and I love blogging and I love connecting with readers and fellow writers. I absolutely love everything about this crazy life of a writer.
That’s why we do it. If God puts a passion in your heart for writing, then you write. It’s as simple as that.
BUT—and this is important here—even though writing involves endless work and has no time clock to punch out, you should create your own time clock. Yes, we can write and be on social media and work 24/7, but we shouldn’t! It’s very, very important we learn to take time out. To LIVE. The job of a writer is unlike any other, because essentially we’re our own boss. Which means we have to provide ourselves with specific work hours and vacations when we need it. This post is by no means implying that you should spend every waking second working! DON’T. That’s unhealthy! (I would know. *cough*) Figure out your two favorite social media platforms and stick with them and don’t worry about the rest. Set out two hours of the day to write and clock out afterwards. Take up your friend’s offer to have lunch, because your book will still be there when you get back.
Live, write, find your own pace.
(And don’t do like me where you go a while only working and then a while not doing ANYTHING, because I’m totally the worst at that whole balance thing. Ahem.)
Being a writer is not the easiest life. But you know what? Sometimes it totally is lounging at home in your pajamas drinking all the coffee your heart desires. I mean, one of the biggest ways to learn the craft is by reading novels and watching movies! And published authors do quite literally get paid to make stuff up.
The life of a writer is hard and insane and weird and overwhelming and stressful and absurd. And if you love it, it’s absolutely amazing.
Tell me, dear writers, what struggles do you face as a writer? Does it sometimes overwhelm you all the hats we writers must wear? And I REALLY want to know, how do you balance it all??? What habits have you developed that have helped? Because I NEED TIPS AND TRICKS. So share away!