British author Tim Lott wrote an article for website The Guardian, and the piece is his reaction to a poll that says that 60% of Britons want to be an author (you can find Lott’s article here).
Now, no writer – whether published or unpublished – needs to be told that writing is not as fun as it seems. It’s the kind of thing that is both fun and arduous, by turns liberating, sometimes limiting, frustrating, and suffocating. Writers know this kind of feeling, being torn between wanting to write and wanting to throw the laptop out of the window and forever get rid of an idea that refuses to be tamed. Also, there is the crippling feeling of insufficiency, of not being good enough, of not doing enough outside of writing to actually have something to write.
George Orwell (quoted from Tim Lott’s article), says it best:
All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.
Not to discourage anyone who has just recently picked up writing as a viable career option and is penning down the Next Great Novel, as we speak. But while writing sounds fun, the reality is that one does not write something monumental and brilliant at first try. One has to struggle, climb that mountain – the top of which you cannot see from where you are standing now, most likely – and one has to brave the falling rocks, the debris, sharp corners, steep slopes. Writing is not nearly as physically dangerous as that comparison makes it out to be, but certainly, considering the things that come with writing, it may as well be dangerous. Long hours spent in from of the machine, back bent, typing, not eating. Dark circles ringing the eyes. Hands aching, eyes bloodshot. Long hours spent writing, with the very real possibility that you may – perhaps you will – choose to discard it.
What is the point? The point is writing is not easy. Writing, as a job, will be hard, and very taxing. One does not just go through the act of writing – one must also go through the act of selling what they have written, marketing it, making their writing known publicly. Granted, it may be easier today, given that we now have different platforms to share our writing. But compensation is not a guarantee. It will be hard when you start out, perhaps much harder if you are still writing your debut novel.
But, Tim Lott says it best:
Writers get to lay out their vision of the world, which, for some reason, feels important to them – although, as Orwell also observed, this may be indistinguishable from the baby’s cry for attention. At the best moments, their work flies above craft into art. They are held in popular esteem, it is true. And they control their own time to a far greater extent than most wage slaves. Staring out the window also certainly come into it – a lot.
Although Lott gives a list of things following that statement of why writing is “unimaginably hard,” as he puts it, it’s still good to put things into perspective. If one chooses to write, one willingly accepts all the hardships that come with it. But, one also willingly embraces the opportunity to “lay out their vision of the world” which, while not important to everyone, is still, regardless, important. Important to the writer, certainly, but also perhaps to the reader, who is only waiting for the writing to give him or her a voice. And so, as Lott says, it is a lonely profession, it is insecure, and it emphasizes the writer’s introversion to the extreme – but further down the line, if the writing is a success, then the writer is able to reach out, and perhaps touch the souls that are as lonely as him or her.
It certainly sounds romantic at this point, and perhaps no matter what people say about the reality of being a writer, there will always be that sense of romanticism to the craft. The point is, however, that no matter how much you want to be a writer, you should always keep in mind that it’s not all fun and games, and that it will be hard through all stages – not just in the process of writing itself, though perhaps that is the hardest – but putting your writing out for the whole world to see.
Here is a quote from London-based American author Meg Rosoff:
Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.
Writing is hard, on all fronts, but always return to the root of why you write. Inspiration and drive will not pay the bills immediately. It will not eliminate your demons. It will not free your time, give you moments to spend quality time with friends, magically open up a world of opportunities for you to explore at your own pace. You will go hungry, sleep-deprived, running on caffeine and instant noodles, make you cranky and unsociable, cut you out from the world. You will be, inevitably, behind, when it comes to current trends, what movies to watch, what shows to follow.
But remember, too, that all other writers – bestselling, now, and very much influential – went through the same things you willingly subject yourself to. It is neither easy nor secure, but then perhaps, you, as a writer, already know this. Just keep your eye on the prize – on that spark, that possibility that you might someday share your vision to the world – and keep writing.
Even if it is four-thirty in the morning and you are on your fourth cup of coffee.