What is the life of a writer like?
First, the bad.
- You spend lots of lots of time alone. That’s absolutely necessary. You need time alone to write, and when you’re not writing you are reading. When you are not reading, you should be thinking, contemplating, observing. That’s hard for me, a naturally gregarious person. But I am also a highly creative person, and so if I want to create, I know I need my alone time.
- You procrastinate. I don’t know any writer who doesn’t. There is always another story, another article, another chapter to be written. But the reality is, writing is hard work. And unless you are an absolute glutton for punishment, sometimes you just want to do something, anything else but write. Most of that time is doing something totally useless–on the surface–but I have become convinced over the years that unless you totally remove yourself from your writing responsibility, a little procrastination is a good thing. Why? Because your subconscious sometimes needs time to process what you are working on.
- You are depressed a lot. Writers deal with depression for a variety of reasons. You deal with rejection a lot, which is hard on the ego. You often don’t feel good enough to do your job. You feel like you are wasting your time. You feel like you are cheating those who depend on you. You’re a fraud. Depression comes with the territory. It’s why many famous writers have turned to drink over the years. Not good.
- You have to deal with people’s comments. Most of them are well meaning, but they often can hurt. People don’t seem to want to hear about the book I’ve finished. Instead, they want to know what I am working on now. And as soon as I start talking about it, their eyes glaze over, and I know I’ve lost them. And then there’s the view that unless you are making big bucks or on the New York Times Bestseller List, you’re wasting your time. Folks, I’m not doing this for the money.
- You get paid far less than minimum wage. There are ways to make money as a writer, if that’s what motivates you. Go freelance and write articles for regional and national publications. Stay away from writing books. Or if you write books, write Self Help books. But if you want to follow your muse and write adventure stories, romance stories, or historical fiction, prepare to feed your family some other way.
Now the good:
- You are creating something from nothing. I have said before that other than having a child, there is nothing I have ever done that has helped me understand God better than writing a book. You can create an entire universe, including worlds, cities and people from nothing more than your imagination. And you have absolute sway over their life and death. It’s a heady feeling.
- You can affect people’s lives through your words. Beyond the occasional paycheck, my reward for being a writer comes when someone comes up to me and says, “What you wrote meant so much to me.” I actually have had people quote me, which is always strange. As a Christian, I see it as proof positive that the Holy Spirit can use even me on occasion to touch people’s lives.
- You do, on occasion, get paid. There’s nothing better than creating something you are very proud of, AND getting paid for it. I wrote an article for Signs of the Times magazine back in 1995 entitled “What Jesus Gave Up for Christmas” which ended up winning an award. Just yesterday, I got a letter from them asking if they could reprint the article, stating that they would pay me $175 to do so. Money for work I did 22 years ago. Pretty good. That has happened more than once, on a variety of articles, and it’s always fun when it does.
- You are answering a calling. I don’t write because it’s fun. Okay, not just because it’s fun. I write because I feel it’s what God has called me to do. In fact, in college, my placement advisor recommended I study medicine. Boy am I glad I didn’t. I will be finishing my 22nd book very soon, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. This is what God wants me to do, and I will do it until the day I die, whether I make any money at it, whether I receive any recognition, whether I have masses of people reading what I write. I can’t help myself. And perhaps I don’t want to.