by Lola Blake
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. It made perfect sense that I would become a writer, after all, English was my favourite subject and I spent Saturday afternoon’s locked in my bedroom reading anything I could get my hands on. It started with Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, then The Babysitters Club and later Virginia Andrews and then onto Stephen King. Genre didn’t matter to me, I was interested in everything from horror to melodrama to fantasy and science fiction. I started writing stories in primary school and continued to write – mostly for friends – all throughout high school. So it made perfect sense that I would eventually become a writer. Why would I not become a writer? The idea of being one seemed very glamorous to me when I was younger. I imagined the author’s life to be something like this; wake up at 9am or some other glorious hour of the morning, waking to sunlight streaming through the window rather than the screeching of an alarm clock, followed by a morning jog along the beach, which was obviously just out front of my mansion. Then I would spend a couple of hours in front of my laptop, tapping out my latest bestseller while my maid vacuumed and organised dinner for me. I would end my day with a much deserved glass of champagne in the tub while watching the latest True Blood episode. It was a perfect plan. Just a shame that no one bothered to explain to me what it was actually like to be a writer. No one told me about the struggles or the harsh reality of being a writer. The reality is that there are four main struggles of being a writer, that I will outline below.
1. Expectation Versus Reality
Unlike my Jackie Collins-esque vision of the celebrity author, the reality is that most writers earn less than $10,000 per year and have to juggle full time writing with full time work and running a household. It’s difficult but it’s completely doable. Stephenie Meyer penned Twilight in three months, finding time to write in the hours between her children’s bedtime and her own bedtime. So be prepared for some serious time-management. Writer’s also need to find time to update blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media in order to maintain their relationship with their audience.
Did anyone know how many interesting articles there are on Buzzfeed? Look at all these news links showing up on my Facebook feed and while I’m updating my Twitter account, maybe I’ll just take five minutes out to argue with this complete internet stranger about the merits of implementing a carbon tax scheme. . . oh, look, its midnight! Where did the time go? We all know how this works, right? Stay on task and stay focused.
After working an eight hour work day, picking my daughter up from day care, cooking dinner and squeezing in some exercise, I’m not feeling particularly mentally switched on. I’m struggling to hold a conversation with my husband, much less write a chapter interesting enough to hold a captive audience for sixty-two pages. I tend to write on weekends and during the holidays. I’d like to squeeze in more, but I physically cannot. Instead I stay motivated by reading at least an hour each night. It inspires me to write and it helps me switch off mentally at the end of the day as well.
4. Fear and Self- Doubt
Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer from about the age of five, it took me years to build up the courage to pen my first novel, Coming Home. I felt almost sick at the thought of publishing it. Why? Because I had poured so much of myself into it, that I feared two things. The first was being told that it was no good and that my best work was still not sufficient and the second thing I feared was feeling exposed. Coming Home was a deeply personal book and I drew on a lot of emotions and personal experiences to write authentically about the feelings of loss associated with losing a loved one. I could have just as easily shelved it and decided not to publish it, but then what would be the point in living? Like most writers, I’m at my best when I’m creating and I’ve finally reached an age where I have to believe that it is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
Do all other writers feel the same way? Perhaps. If so, then I hope my words of wisdom have been of some assistance to you. Happy writing, everyone!