If asked, many people say that writing full time is their dream job. Who wouldn’t want to be able to live off their writing? However, for the vast majority of people, making enough money from their writing, or making any money from their writing, isn’t going to happen.
So, why are there so many people in the world who see writing as their dream job?
Perhaps it’s the image of the writer. The full time writer gets to choose her own hours. She gets to work from home, sitting at her desk, staring out the window, while she builds a fictional world. She creates beautifully crafted sentences and ideas come to her. Her imagination flows. Then, when she’s finished her manuscript, she sends it off to her agent and editor, and her work gets published.
Yeah, if only writing were like that.
Writing isn’t easy. It’s time consuming, frustrating, full of road blocks and self-doubt (there are times where you believe everything you’ve written is trash and you want to burn it all), and often lacks the satisfaction people believe writing gives writers (many writers aren’t happy with how their work turns out. They constantly strive to improve, and often see faults within their work, even if their work is a bestseller).
Writing can be wonderful. The accomplishment you feel from completing a novel or short story is fantastic. But writing doesn’t end there. The beautifully crafted sentences don’t magically flow from pen to paper. Usually, they come during the revision process, when you’re actively and aggressively editing your work.
A common saying in writing is to “kill your darlings.” Though Stephen King didn’t coin the phrase, he followed the saying with, “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings,” in his novel On Writing.
Be brutal in the editing process. That is a difficult piece of advice because writers get attached to their characters, their storyline, etc. It would be great if the first draft of a novel was perfect and everything you wrote was golden. However, since that’s rarely the case, you have to put aside your ego (and let’s face it, everyone has an ego) and tear apart your work.
Better yet? Have a critique group that will shred your work for you. It’s a painful process, but when you do get an agent and editor they won’t hold your hand. They took you on because they saw potential in your work, and they will do whatever they believe is necessary to make your work the best it can be. This often means you receiving notes from your editor that force you to sit back and ignore your work for a few days for fear of burning it in a fit of passion.
For some people, writing it truly their dream job, as long as they have a realistic image of what writing full time entails. Those people who do write full time, they have something internal motivating them past all the hardships that come along with being a full time writer. As George Orwell said, “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.”
What drives you to write?
(Photo courtesy of Drew Coffman.)