When I was a kid and people asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I always said the same thing: I wanted to be a writer. And it’s something I’m still passionate about. But being a writer isn’t without it’s fair share of challenges.
So, today, I wanted to share some of what I’ve had to learn the hard way. Here are 15 things about being a writer that no one ever told me.
15 Things No One Told Me About Being a Writer
1. Writer’s block is incredibly real. And incredibly frustrating.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled “How to overcome writer’s block” over the years. And, while all the articles I’ve read are helpful, none of them have ever really helped.
When looking at all the strategies for writer’s block, they tend to fall into one of two categories: stop writing, and write anything.
Both are valid. Sometimes you do need to get up, take a break, walk outside, listen to music, or get out of your head. Other times, you need to just force yourself to write. It doesn’t have to be good; it just has to be.
But I’ve found that no matter what I try, it’s frustrating to feel that lack of creative juju.
2. So is Imposter Syndrome
I’ve definitely talked about imposter syndrome before. It’s that creeping sense of doubt you sometimes get. That little voice in your head saying, “You’re not good enough; you’re a fraud!”
It can happen to anyone, in any profession, and being a writer is no exception.
3. Writing can be cathartic
Journaling isn’t something that I do regularly, but when I’m stressed or upset, I tend to turn towards the page. Writing fiction, too, can be surprisingly cathartic. Because even if you’re not writing about actual things that are bothering you, you’re expressing the emotion behind them.
4. It can also be excruciating
I’ve sometimes compared writing to taking out pieces of your soul, slowly and methodically. Both because of the aforementioned emotional intensity you pour into it and because of how painful it can be when you’re hit with writer’s block.
5. Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places
There’s writer’s block, and then there’s… the opposite. I’ve heard many names for it – hypergraphia, ideation overload, reverse writer’s block. But I just call it inspiration and it can come when you least expect it.
6. And it’s typically Feast or Famine
Sometimes, when inspiration hits, it hits hard. There’s a rush of excitement and mental energy. You can’t wait to start writing and when you do, it’s like you can’t even type fast enough. I’ve been so consumed with writing before that I’ve skipped meals. Not intentionally, mind you – I just forgot to eat.
But then there are times when you’ve got nothing. Like all your motivation and focus just – poof! – up and vanished.
Related Read: Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo
7. You spend a lot of time querying
One of my lifelong goals has been to write a book. And I actually achieved it! The feeling of accomplishment was unlike anything else – I’d spent so much time and energy writing this book. When I was finally done, I thought, “Well now the hard part’s over.”
Wrong. I was SO wrong. Because the hardest part hadn’t even begun.
So, whether you’re a freelancer or an aspiring author, here’s something no one tells you about being a writer: the work doesn’t end when the writing does.
You’ll spend a LOT of time querying agents or sending freelance pitches. In fact, it’s often more time-consuming than the actual writing.
8. There’s a lot of Rejection
OK, so this one people actually did tell me. But here’s what they didn’t tell me: it always hurts.
When you get a rejection letter from the agent you were sure would love your manuscript, it’ll feel like a knife to your heart. No matter how much you try and prepare yourself mentally.
9. Acceptance never gets old
But it’s always exciting to get something published or to hear positive feedback.
10. You’ll Obsess over Details that (Probably) Don’t Matter
There’s a famous quote by Oscar Wilde that goes something like, “This morning I took out a comma. And this afternoon, I put it back in again.”
It’s probably my favorite quote about writing because of just how damn relatable it is. Whether it’s for this blog or my fiction, I can easily obsess over the tiniest things. Even if I know it’s something as small as a comma and that no one else will notice – I can’t help it.
11. It’s never easy to kill your darlings
Which brings me to my least favorite writing expressions.
“Killing your darlings” is the act of getting rid of something in your craft that you care about. Whether it’s a character, a chapter, a paragraph, or just one sentence that you love, it’s painful. Even when you know it’ll make your overall writing better.
12. Talent isn’t Everything
Less talented people will sometimes be more successful. You might read a book/article/blog post and think, “I can write so much better than that! How’d they get published?”
And while you might not be wrong, it’ll still make you feel like an asshole.
13. You won’t be the exception
Andy Weir actually self-published The Martian first. It ended up being so successful that it was bought by a big publishing house and re-published years later. Then it went on to become an Oscar-nominated film starring Matt Damon.
It’s an unlikely story. Almost unheard of in the publishing journey, actually. An exception to the rule. But, you, unfortunately will not be the exception.
14. It’s not glamorous
You’ll look more like Carrie than Carrie Bradshaw.
15. Sometimes, you’ll hate being a writer
There will be times when you wish you were drawn to something else. Like math or science – something more logical and less creative. But you’ll find that being a writer is the only thing that really feels right.
Ah, that was a corny way to end it, I know! I just couldn’t help myself.
What are your biggest lessons about being a writer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
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