Many people dream of a life as a writer. Better yet, to make a living scribbling those words on paper and making pretend people come alive. There are many notions attached to this dream life. Since it’s a dream, they’re usually also far from the truth. Now, you may not think that every time a famous author sits down to write, glitter shoots out of their fingers, but there is still a certain level of glamour associated with this profession.
The first book I’ve read about a writer’s life was from Marian Keyes and she made it very clear from the start that she spent most of her life writing in bed, and the rising action of any day was the struggle with bedsores. So, let’s revise: what are our expectations and what is reality?
- When you’re a writer, you write all day, every day
Yeah, yeah. We probably should. Writing is a muscle that needs to be trained. The idea that we furiously type away from nine to five while taking a tea break and snuggle with our cat isn’t the usual day for any writer, I imagine. From interviews that I’ve read, famous authors also don’t write all day, though they do have a rhythm. Roald Dahl wrote in the morning and Stephen King writes a hell of a lot of words before noon, like opening a trap door and letting all the words fall into your basement of doom only to go about the rest of your day.
I’d like to have a rhythm going, and I did write every day for a very long time, even if it was just one paragraph, but since moving and a new job I have to make it a habit again. And you know what, even if you don’t make it a habit, I’ll bet there are still moments that even King gets distracted by shiny objects every now and then. Or maybe in his case, vampires or dead pets returning from the grave. It’s not bad to live a little every now and then, that’s usually where inspiration comes from. Writing also comes in different forms, sometimes you have to let a novel simmer before you actually start writing. There are many ways to go about it and you’re not a failure if you don’t write every day.
- People will think it’s awesome that you write
I’m very proud of the fact that I’m a writer, published or not, it’s a calling. And callings are special. The expectation is that everybody is star struck by the mere mention of what you do and immediately has to know all the details. Sometimes that is true. There are people who will truly admire you, knowing it’s not something they could do or would want to do, but there are plenty of people who will simply regard you the way they would a mating platypus. With surprise and a hint of disdain.
- You will be inspired ALL THE TIME
Yes, inspiration will hit you when you’re in the grocery store, when you’re on the toilet, when you’re on the phone with your mother. It will be all around you, whisking you away from mundane thoughts like ‘have I let the gas on?’ or ‘where did my child go?’, instead you’ll deal with more important things; your novel.
Err, NO. That is not how inspiration works. Inspiration can hit you in the face like a drunk pigeon and I can assure you, will be an unexpected surprise. (As opposed to expected surprises.) Reality is different. The more I write, the more I realise that, sure, a person can be inspired. But it is not, I repeat NOT, a requirement to write. If we had to wait on being inspired to write, we’d be typing skeletons. Actually, we wouldn’t be typing at all. We’d just be skeletons. Sit down and write. Even if it’s shite. You edit later.
Make writing a habit and you’ll eventually get in the zone each time you sit down. And if you’re lucky, you might occasionally be hit by a drunk pigeon.
Expectations aren’t bad, but they can mess up the standards by which you measure success. All these realities shouldn’t surprise or deter you. Simply know what to expect, so you can’t get disappointed. And know that you are a writer because you write.