Thursday, October 27, 2016

I used to be a writer like you, but then I took a contract to the knee

I know I’ve sort of already talked about how the time for writing shrivels up as soon as you sign a contract, so people stop writing on their blogs, but life after contract can really mess with your ability to produce words of all kinds.

And when the words don’t come, a writer doesn’t feel like a writer. All over the internet—right now—there are memes that basically say you’re only a writer if you write EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! I know, that’s sort of a gold standard, but it’s also, for some of us, completely impossible. I simply cannot write every single day. I work 10 hour shifts, ride herd on a child reluctant to eat dinner/brush hair/teeth/do homework/clean her room, cook the foods, and other wise do all the things that make a normal house a normal house.

So yeah, sometimes, I don’t have any words at the end of a day—after all, I can only throw hot dogs at my daughter for dinner so many nights in a row. It happens. But the world is busy stuffing this idea that only true writers—writers who really deserve success—are even capable of writing every day. It’s as if I’m only a really real writer if I punish myself by toiling on my novel every single day. Now, not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a word for that—insane. Because that’s what I’ll be if I write at the end of every day.

And this impossibility adds to the impostor syndrome many writers are already feeling because not only is the editor “just being nice” but now I can’t even manage to write every day? Total fake.

Oh, but there’s more (there’s always more). When I do have time to write, instead of running off into the sunset capturing some new novel, all that “free time” is now shoveled into editing that novel that just got the contract.

And editing is something of a shock initially. Every comment from the editor (you know, the one just being nice?) feels like a personal attack. So not only are the words not coming, there’s independent confirmation that all the words you ever made sucked. It all confirms the self fulfilling prophecy of mediocrity.

This, to some extent happened to me to the point that I haven’t finished a new novel in two and a half years. I’m hopeful to finish a rough draft real soon, but this is a big reason why writers with newly minted books seem to dry up and blow away with the dust.


In truth, like all things in publishing, it’s different for everyone. Good luck, and keep your chin up (it’s easier to breathe when the water is closing in over you if you keep your chin up).

2 comments:

  1. I find that the vast, vast majority of people who say to write every day are not writers. Thus, we can ignore them. As for the pros who say to write every day, most of them have been at this for a long time, and don't have things like day jobs, so they have the time to write every day.

    But the rest of us, just trying to get to that point where writing is our only job? Yeah. We have to make do with what we can do. But even small progress or irregular progress is better than nothing. (I tell myself this all the time.)

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  2. As a married father with 4 kids, a full time job and an eclectic mindset; my writing time is squeezed into 1~3 sessions between 10pm and 1 am...

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