The writing life sounds idyllic. Who wouldn’t want to spend all of their time simply thinking up ideas and creating stories? Okay, maybe only writers want to do that, but nevertheless, such a life sounds good, no?
When I tell someone I’m a writer, I’m quick to follow-up with the fact that I have a day job because when you’re an unpublished writer and you tell someone that they immediately think you’re some unemployed dreamer living in a van down by the river. At the very least, they suspect you may spend an inordinate amount of time near the off-ramp of the freeway with a cardboard sign in hand.
The truth is most writers don’t make much money – even published ones. The heavy hitters like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King get a lot of press for the wealth their works have generated, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. No one becomes a writer because they want to get wealthy. It’d be like plotting your whole retirement savings strategy on the lottery – only with a slightly better odds.
Most writers I know, and I’ve met many over the past four years, do it because they love it. Sure, it’d be nice to get paid for your work, but that’d be like icing on the cake rather than the penultimate goal. Writing is like an extension of oneself, something you do because deep within your soul you feel compelled to do so.
What else would explain why I get up at 4:30 every weekday morning and sit in my chair to write? I wouldn’t even get up that early to run, and I’m a lifelong runner. There are mornings when the alarm goes off that I feel like just rolling over and sleeping another hour, but I don’t. Every morning (except on vacations) for the past four years, I’ve done this. It would be inexplicable were I not compelled to write.
While it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing something regularly, writing is not easy. I’ve been lucky that the stories have come rather easily, but I’ve been less fortunate in the response to my work. After you pour your heart and soul into a work and the critical feedback is less than encouraging, it’s easy to give up. It’d be easy to take that extra hour of sleep and enjoy it, but I don’t do this because I want something easy. I do it because I love it. Instead, I focus on getting better. I read books on writing. I solicit feedback from those who know good writing. It will only make me better.
Sure, the writing life sounds idyllic, but like everything else, there are positives and negatives or pros and cons. It’s not for the feint of heart or for those who cannot handle criticism well or who find it hard to persevere in the face of discouragement, but when you love something, nothing can stop you from enjoying it. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this. Sometimes, I have to stop and read the words on the page again and relish the fact that I’ve created something from nothing.
This writing life makes me happy.