It seems fitting that my final two 50 Things lists return us to the world of writing.
So – list number 9 is…
5 THINGS I WISH I’D KNOW BEFORE I BECAME A WRITER
It’s a job!
Some people , no matter how many hours they see you put in, or how many books you sell (or not), will have serious trouble accepting that being a writer is a job. They equate you working from home or in a cafe (or wherever), as you enjoying a time consuming hobby. This – in their eyes- means you are free to be interrupted all the time, to have time off at will, and always there to do them the odd favour.
I have distant relatives that still tell me I need to get a ‘proper job’ and ask if I’m ever going to ‘make it’ (Making it meaning being famous or having a book adapted into a TV show or film.) I wish I’d known just how frustrating that was before I started!
It is often said that writers are never off work. And it’s true – if we aren’t writing, we are thinking about writing. Everything in the world is potential inspiration.
Having said that – how long we work is down to our deadlines, publishers deadlines, editors deadlines and the fact that, the more books we have the more income we make. Once a writer’s faithful readers have all read their latest book, to keep the income flowing, you need to write another one – the cycle of supply and demand is there as it would be for any kind of product production job.
Personally- and I am aware I’m a workaholic – I work about 65 hours a week – often more. Weekends are rare. This isn’t a complaint – I love my job. It is however, a warning – to be successful, the hours need to be put it. Imagine you are setting up a business – you are self-employed, and to make the business float, you need to work hard and long. It’s exactly the same for a writer.
There is no drug on earth like making people happy with words. Sharing a story with someone is very special. And, when a good review comes in, or an editor/publisher/agent like your work- the rush is amazing. I have been a slave to the addiction for nearly 18 years.
Once you’re on the rollercoaster, it’s very hard to get off- or even slow down.
People can be cruel
I mentioned the joy of good reviews – but the pain of the bad ones can take a hell of a lot of getting over. While one nice review will make you happy for an hour or so – a bad one will niggle for days- weeks even.
Obviously, we can’t expect everyone to like out work – this means poor reviews. That’s part of the job. What isn’t great, is when reviewers award a one or two star review because the book arrived in poor packaging (Do I package the books? Nope) – or because they accidentally ordered the wrong book. (Go to a book shop instead if you can’t manage making online sales).
Worse still, are the reviews that attack the writer, rather than critically assessing the book. I’ve been called some horrendous things over the years by people who have no idea who I am, or what I’m like. Assumptions are made and opinions are freely shared – in a very unhelpful/hurtful way. Authors are humans- that can be forgotten all too often.
In short – if you have nothing good or helpful (sometimes poor reviews can help- as long as they are constructive) to say – say nothing.
Ups and Downs
I’ll be honest – there are as many low periods as high periods. But the ups are so good, that if you are destined to write, you’ll press on regardless. Only a thick skin and a burning desire to write will get you through the rejections, the broken promises and the number of times things that ‘almost’- but then ‘don’t’ happen.
Having said that, when you get a ‘yes’ – when a publisher calls you back, when an agent accepts you, when a box of your own books arrives through the post – whether they can via self-publishing or a traditional publisher – the feeling is like no other.
When someone tells you, you made them laugh, smile, cry (in a good way), or generally made them happy – that’s so special.
Back when I was Kay, I would receive messages of thanks – I’d saved a marriage or improved a relationship, via my erotica – now that’s amazing.
These are the ups I hang on for – the moments that keep my fingers tapping at the keyboard.
And so- one more list to go before I hit 50…