What does a writer’s life look like?
Some images that might come to mind:
- Book signings
- A story pouring from your fingers onto the page
- New York Times bestseller status
When I decided to become a writer, I didn’t bother to look up a job description. I jumped into the writing life blissfully ignorant of what I was doing or where I was going.
Look, story idea. Let’s write it down.
Boom, I was a writer.
Ah, the painful innocence of youth.
That was almost nine years ago. I’ve learned a lot since then, through experience, research, trial, and error.
Writing isn’t easy. If you put your heart and soul into it, if you make it a passion, it can be brutally difficult. But know what? Usually the hard things are the worthwhile ones.
So, you want to be a writer? Here are some things you can expect.
- Time alone
Like, for hours and hours on end. That doesn’t mean you can’t emerge from your dark hole and socialize, or bang out chapters at Starbucks, but you need to get comfortable with having a computer screen and imaginary people as your best friends for long periods of time.
- Hours of practice
How else are you going to learn and improve? Writing for a few days or weeks might sound doable, but months? Years? Thousands of hours spent developing characters, arranging plots, building settings, sharpening prose.
You can’t master carpentry or ice skating in a few hours. Why should writing be any different? It’s a huge dedication, but in the end, the payoff is worth the effort.
- Lots of reading
Good news, bookworms. Reading is key to writing well.
Read books in your genre, books outside your genre. Read craft books. Read blogs and online articles. As Stephen King says:
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
Metaphorically, of course.
A piece of the plot isn’t working and you can’t figure out a solution. All your characters have personalities as exciting as a concrete wall. The Great Fount of Ideas has stopped flowing.
You want to scream, bang your head on the desk… drown your sorrows in chocolate. The frustration is just another thread in the rope of writing.
- Rewriting and editing
Two of my favorites to hate. Unfortunately, also two of the most important stages. Diamonds don’t come out of the mine shiny and cut, ready to be sold. They need to be honed, polished.
It’s the same with books. So yes, rewriting and editing—sometimes as arduous as climbing Mt. Everest—are like annoying relatives. You can’t escape them.
- Doubt and fear
The twin terrors of writing. No on escapes—from the bright-eyed teenager just banging out her first ever draft in her bedroom to the multi-published bestseller crafting his next masterpiece in a posh office.
The good news? They don’t have to rule your life. Know they’re lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce, and when they do, break out that pen (mightier than the sword, right?) and do battle.
- Bursts of creativity
Sometimes, you hit a groove. You know where the story’s going, dialogue and action fall into place, fingers fly over the keyboard.
5K in a day? Piece of cake.
Often, we have to slog through, but those moments of being in the zone make up for the plodding (plotting? 😉 ).
Want to create a magic system where naturally bald people are the only ones who can see the future?
Want to redeem an insufferable child?
Want to explore an uncharted ocean on a pirate ship?
With writing comes freedom. Freedom to:
- Probe deep themes
- Create new worlds and people
- Invent technology
- Command starships
- Dig into the human psyche
If you ask me, that’s awesome.
Writing might be frustrating, challenging, time-consuming. But the journey—and the sights along the way—make it worthwhile.
What are some of the experiences you’ve had as a writer?
Zachary Totah writes speculative fiction stories. This allows him to roam through his imagination, where he has illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When not busy keeping up with life, he enjoys playing sports, hanging out with family and friends, watching movies, and reading. He lives in Colorado and doesn’t drink coffee. He loves connecting with other readers and writers on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.