When people find out that I do not have a job and can spend many hours a day writing they’re usually envious. It sounds like a dream; I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m more candid about my health than is probably advisable. I like for people to realise that before they start envying me they realise that my “dream” setup has more than a few nightmare side-effects.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of writers via the internet, workshops and other venues where we normally introspective folk like to go to avoid sitting down and getting something written. In those years I’ve met many people who envision Being A Writer as really more of being A Person Who Can Work From Home and Has No Stress At All. After all, who wouldn’t adore being able to while away in the Land of Make Believe at her own pace and then sit back and watch checks roll in? It sounds absolutely luscious.
But I’ll come clean about something, and this is a thing you probably don’t want to hear.
Work is essential. Tasks and routine are the calisthenics that keep your life in shape. Process is the Pilates that tones your mental muscle and unwelcome meetings and duties are the free weights that train your self-discipline. If you are like the many people right now who are done out of a paying job, do yourself a favour and create a job-like environment for yourself. Set aside an area of your home to treat as an office if you are homebound as I am. If you are mobile, consider setting up shop at the local branch of your public library.
Real writing is a job just like any other, with tasks and routine and process and unwelcome duties. So don’t get stuck on a fairy tale version of the world where Becoming A Writer is like winning a ticket to some sort of leisurely life.
And here’s the other secret: Your job makes you a better writer, so if you are a writer who writes full-time you BEST find something else to enrich you or your books will start to suck. Don’t believe me? Pick up the latest Patricia Cornwell. Go read Olivia Goldsmith’s third through last books.
I’ve read a lot of books by a lot of writers and it usually goes like this. The first book is rough around the edges but okay. The second or third book really gets things humming and takes off, making the writer a Full Time Writer. Books four and sometimes five are still pretty good, but somewhere around book six they stop writing relatable stuff. If they’re a chick-lit type of writer (like Olivia Goldsmith) they’ll write a book set in the world of publishing, because that’s all they know now. Then they veer off into a papery unrelatableness.
If you are truly a writer you do this work because you are compelled to and you love it the way some people love their children, their pets, their classic cars. You do it no matter what else is going on in your life. If you are just looking for an excuse to hide from the world there are easier, more lucrative paths to take and I suggest you look into one of those.