“It must be nice to spend all day doing something you love.”
It really is – but sometimes, it just isn’t either.
I’m trying to slowly make a career out of writing. And while it might sound nice and cushy, it’s actually really hard work – mainly due to conflicting priorities and a lack of focus.
What does a writer do? The answer should be, a writer writes. Which we do. But a writer, and especially a writer in the digital age, also has to be a brand manager, a social media maven, a production manager, and an advertising executive. A writer spends a good 50 percent of their time on promo and marketing, because we have such a saturated field.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not taking a poke at self publishing. Without self publishing I’d still be trawling traditional publisher’s slush piles – aka trash heaps. My books don’t fit a nice, clean, saleable mould, so even if they were unputdownable, they would never be picked up by the majors.
So, that other 50 percent of the time, when we are supposed to be writing? Yeah, that gets tricky too.
You see, it’s very easy to say to yourself, “The muse is not with me,” or “I have washing to hang out,” or “There’s just something over here on YouTube that I want to watch first.”
Writing needs to be our number one priority. You do it before you do everything else. It’s your product – and you can’t do the marketing on a product that doesn’t exist. You can’t advertise a non-existent book.
But even having said that, I find it very difficult just to sit down and write. If I’m tired, it’s a chore. It really is. I love writing – absolutely LOVE it – yet sometimes it’s harder to do than just about anything.
So, goals, people. Set goals. I have a goal of 3000 words a week, which started at the beginning of January and which I’ve hit 3 or 4 times in the 4 or 5 weeks of this year. But I’ve also been pushing myself to sit down and write 1000 words a day, and this is where the “writing is hard” bit comes in.
Sometimes, it takes me two hours to write 1000 words.
The above sentence has ten words, and it took me maybe fifteen seconds to write. Extrapolating from there, it should take me about 1500 seconds to write 1000 words, or 25 minutes. But sometimes, it takes me two hours. OVER FOUR TIMES as long as it should.
It’s pure agony, wrenching words out of yourself. It feels like you’re pulling them from some deep, dry well inside you, on a thin fishing line that only lets you pull up a catch every now and then. The seconds and minutes in between sentences crash down like waves of self-hatred and remorse. Who would do this to themselves? Who would ever pull so hard at something that is clearly stuck fast in the mud at the bottom?
Yes, I sweat. I sweat and I moan and I wait as one – word – at – a – time – comes – out. My fingers hover above the keys, just hoping that the next one will be the word that unplugs the sink, that after this one, the words will come in a torrent. Still, they continue to come in a trickle.
And here’s the thing. They come.
It might be a trickle. But they still come. I can sit down and moan and grunt for two hours, but at the end, I have 1000 shiny new words. And I feel like a champion marathon runner. It took all that I had to give that day, but I did it. I wrote the words.
I am, in fact, a writer after all.