Thursday 5 September 2013


Most jobs in life are noted for their sameness - you do the same thing day after day, week after week, or things go in cycles but are usually predictable. While many people declare they hate their jobs (95% according to a recent survey), they would probably say what they hate is the boredom and sameness. Yet, paradoxically, this is the very reason why they don't quit. Sameness is safe, predictable, secure. You work your hours and you go home at the end of the week with a nice pay-check that pays the bills and buys food.

Writing? Never the same. Just because one story or novel worked out well, that's no guarantee that the next one will be easier, or even work at all. If you write the same story over and over, the critics will lay into you and you'll be labelled unadventurous or boring or predictable. If the new book is deemed of a lesser quality than the previous, you'll get it in the neck for that too.

Money comes and goes. Usually, it goes. Last year's bestseller is this year's remainder, and that healthy royalty cheque dwindles alarmingly, so that you start to think about going back to waitressing or driving taxis.

You are told you need to have a platform, a website, to engage in social media and market yourself, but that seems like a waste of good writing time, or it sucks up too much energy. It becomes another procrastination tool.
Or you decide to start teaching writing, and eventually (or soon) discover that it sucks away your creativity and energy, and it’s depressing to see how many people think they want to be writers.

Output surges and dies. One year you produce three books, the next year(s) you strike a story that just won't work and several years later you have to abandon it. No product, no sales, no advances, no royalties.
The exciting flush of the first draft dies under rewrite after rewrite after rewrite. Your agent stops answering your calls. But you have to keep writing. What else can you do?

No one is knocking on your door, begging for your latest manuscript. No one cares much whether you write or not. Your mother keeps hinting that you should get a real job.

Depressed yet?

Maybe, but it comes with the “job” and learning how to deal with it or work through it is a crucial part of being a writer. There are times when I yearn after my old waitressing job (except now I'm such a cranky person I'd probably be a reincarnation of Carla from 'Cheers', only worse).

Actually, you can stop. Mostly, writing is a job like any other, so you can resign. I've known several writers who have written three or four novels, then gone off to do something else. I've known talented writers who decided it was all too hard. Some people go back to writing just for the enjoyment and decide they will never send anything out again.

What keeps me going? The lure and promise of the story idea not yet written, the vision of the story that haunts me for several years until I just have to write it no matter what, the high that comes from having written, the way in which my own words can surprise me at times as if it wasn't really me who wrote them ... there are many reasons not to give up, and they are all to do with writing. Not with getting published.

What keeps you going? Is it the drive to tell a meaningful story, or record life? Is it a love of language? As writers, like any artists, we are driven to create. Eric Maisel’s books often discuss creativity and how to decide “what matters”, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed by all the parts of your life that are NOT writing. He also talks about how those who do not feel the need to create don’t really understand it, or how it feels. Take heart! Follow your passion, create so you feel alive. Know that hard work will help you achieve your dreams more than anything.
© Sherryl Clark

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