All you ROWers are such a hard working bunch. I visit your blogs and you have another edit down, or completed another chapter. It sometimes feels like you hardly need a pep talk at all. In fact, I often go to you when I need a bit of pepping! So, while you are all hard at work writing, I thought I would take this opportunity to mention some of the drawbacks to being a writer, just to make you think about why you are doing all this.
When I say drawbacks, I don’t mean about the ones everyone is always telling you about: it’s hard work, very few people make it, you can’t make a living, etc. – those are just foolish.
The need for writers right now is greater than it has ever been. New content is always being created and posted online, and entrepreneurs are desperate for great writers to make their websites shine. More people are reading, devouring books, with whole new markets opening up regularly. Almost every industry needs technical writers, and copywriters are sought after. Yes, it is going to be hard work, but so is anything worth achieving. And yes, you might need to broaden your mind to less traditional concepts of writing, and you may not write the next great best-selling novel first time around, but that is no excuse to give up.
These are not the issues that I want to talk about today. The drawbacks I want to look at should not discourage you from being a writer, but rather point out considerations that you need to be aware of when you make the decision to become not just someone who writes, but a writer.
First of all, in calling yourself a writer, people expect you not only to write, but also to have been published in a medium they know, which I think is vastly unfair. Still, this is the way the world is, and people will look at you askew if you have nothing to show them yet. Therefore, well done for starting up a blog. It is a great place to point people as evidence of your writing. It will save a lot of embarrassment at Christmas parties, and allows you to start building up your readership.
There is also the problem that writing can be a rather lonely business. It shouldn’t be very surprising when you consider you must spend a good portion of the day staring at a screen and another good portion staring off into space. However, as the majority of people appear to do this at desk jobs anyway, and don’t have the novels to justify it by the end, don’t let this should worry you. Terry Pratchett says, ‘writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’ Which is true, if you let it.
While being lonely is a matter of choice, becoming a bit strange is more difficult to avoid. This happens for a number of reasons. The most immediate effects come from taking on too much of your characters or bubbling over with strange facts. However, if you spend eight hours writing in the mindset of an evil genius, it can hardly be surprising that you might come down to dinner with just a slight facial tic and a tendency towards manic laughter. I say: embrace it. It makes your writing a lot more interesting, and your life.
Giving off the sense that you are sizing everyone up is harder to conceal, because, in fact, you are. Do they come up to scratch? Could they make a reasonable character in your book, or would they just be filler? Killed off in the second chapter? These are important questions. Much more important than insipid questions such as ‘how do you do?’ That won’t tell you anything interesting.
Lastly, let’s not forget the physical issues with writing. If we don’t exercise care, writers either become on the large side, or slip into a wraith-like figure. This depends on how you have connected eating with your writing.
I admit that I started my writing journey with a block of chocolate firmly beside me at every session. However, I soon realized the road that this was leading down, and so replaced it with jasmine green tea. However, not eating while writing can lead to just not eating at all. You sit down just before lunch, and suddenly an idea of such brilliance comes to you and by the time you look up it is already 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Might as well just wait for dinner.
On the same physical lines, there are the consequences of sitting down all day. Without a conscious effort to include exercise in your day, it is possible to move no further than to the kettle and back for days on end. If you start finding the kettle hard to lift, it might be time to do a series of gym reviews for your blog.
Family and relationships become dangerous ground. With families, despite all the protestations about making sure you keep your day job, families often love having one member as a writer, as it means at least one person is always free to do whatever they need whenever they want. There is a certain logic that they miss. Relatives who would never think of asking you to take a day off from your day job to help them move, will decide that since you were sitting around at home doing nothing anyway, surely you can write some other time?
Children can also be quite demanding, and I believe partners only have a right to complain if you started writing after you got together. These are issues that each individual needs to navigate for themselves. Just remember that murder is only an option if you think you could write well in the jail environment. It’s a personal taste thing, really.
Life becomes much easier if you get other friends who are writers, though they then tend to want to talk about their books, which can be a trifle dull when all you can think about is your book. However, these are the sacrifices you must make if you want to keep appearing even slightly normal.
So keep blogging away, ROWers, because we all know that in the end, it really is worth it.