Friday, 24 February 2012

It's a hard knock (writing) life

Since the decision was made for me that I was going to be a writer (does anyone actually choose to have a life full of disappointment), I have learnt quite a few things that have surprised me -

Go on punch yourself in the face. That's what it feels like to be a writer.

1. Publishers can give unlimited numbers of your books away free, without telling you. See Could your publisher give your book away free if you want to find out what I'm babbling about.

2. When your writing's going well you can feel it. You're desperate to write; to get back to your characters because they're real in your head. But, when your writing's going badly you can barely put an address on a freaking envelope.

3. Royalty statements are so confusing Einstein couldn't figure them out. What formula do they use? The pull it out your butt formula.

4. It's way too easy to live on junk food, fizzy drinks and prescription drugs when you're a writer. Grapes and herbal teas don't give you that sugar hit you need. Drinking way too much booze and puffing away like we're still in the steam age are problems too. And let's not start on the depression and the crumbling sense of self-worth tied into whether some stranger says nay or yay to the novel/article/poem you've been lovingly crafting by candlelight because the power's off again or maybe you just forgot to pay the bill. Again.

5. Sometimes you will actually wonder if your publisher gives two figs about your book. You may sign a contract and then discover communicating with them is like pulling out your own teeth with a pair of pliers. Emails will go unanswered or ignored. Deadlines they came up with will pass without so much as a tweet from them. You'll feel like the mouldy salad at the back of the fridge: forgotten and minging and waiting to be binned.

6. If you were a plumber nobody expects you to work for free, yet when it comes to paying writers people can be real tight wads. I've lost count of the number of editors who've told me how much they've loved my article - often ones I've pulled out of the hat at the last minute cos their pal ditzy dolittle who they asked to write it in the first place couldn't do it because she's having her belly button defluffed/her brain waxed - only for me to have to battle for the next 6 months to get paid.

Of course these negatives can be offset by the joy of seeing the book/article/poem you wrote published, but boy, have you earned it.


  1. I'm still pretty new to this - maybe that's why I'm still healthy, eat fruit and have a publisher who does reply to my emails.

  2. Hi Jen. I'm not quite so new and I know exactly what you mean. The mouldy salad at the back of the fridge - perfect metaphor.

    I'm beginning to realise that it's the same, wherever you are in your writing career. Talking to authors who've been published for years, and who I would think of as successful - many of them feel the same, especially the way things are in publishing just now.

    Chin up, lass. You're right - writing chooses us, not the other way round. Stick at it. We're all in this together...


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