A writer’s life – (or suffering for your art).

I suppose this is the sort of image most of us have of a writer at work – the relaxed serenity of creativity, the beautiful uncluttered workplace, the light from a window that overlooks a garden. Is it time, I wonder, to bust the myth?

I’m not saying there aren’t writers who fit this image of perfect organisation and creative flow, but the fact is, most of us muddle through, lurching from dealing with family catastrophes to playing mindless computer games, while waiting for a spark of inspiration to strike and jot down before it disappears into the ether from whence it came.

I am envious of the young woman in the photograph, not just for her youth and beauty, but look at that sparklingly clean house. I’ve spent the morning vacuuming an entire dog from the carpets, I’m ignoring the dust, walking said dog, having got up twice in the night to let her out into the garden – which is better than getting up to puddles and what my husband calls ‘carpet sausages’. She’s a very old dog, and isn’t quite sure where she is anymore, hence the occasional accidents.

For the sake of my old crumbling bones, I’ve also walked three miles today in a creditable forty-five minutes. Is that 4mph? Good lord, not bad for my age. My hips will doubtless complain later.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the myth of a writer’s life. The truth is that writers are ordinary people with ordinary lives, who are lucky enough to be able to escape the humdrum and stress of reality by inventing worlds of their own to briefly inhabit along with characters they love and hate. To be able to bring these alternative realities to our readers is an honour and a privilege, but it doesn’t come without pain.

The hours lying awake at night going over my plot in my mind, the scrabbling for paper and pencil in the dark to jot down the perfect line or idea that I know I’ll have forgotten by morning. The days when ideas won’t come at all, and I think the story will never see the light of day. The hours of research sometimes required just to write one sentence. The guilt that every woman of a certain age feels when the housework isn’t done, the washing up is in the sink, and the bed needs changing, but that idea absolutely needs putting down in black and white, now, before you forget it. Juggling life/work, relationships, family…

Angst and dyslexia. That’s a jotting down before I forget thingy. Did I say I suffer from dysxxxxx? Damn, that’s usually the only word I never forget, and now I’ve gone and forgotten it. My pages often have xxxx where I need to go back and fill in a word I can’t bring to mind or even think of an alternative for; the entire xxxxx disappears down a whirlpool of xxxx, and refuses to resurface. I shall have to look that up now as it will plague me. Dysnomia is probably what I’m after. It’s an inability to remember words and names – I’m bad at remembering faces as well. I always said I wouldn’t recognise my own mother if I met her where I didn’t expect to see her.

Concept – that was one of the words I wanted.

Angst may make for a good reading experience, but that angst, to be believable and emotive, has a basis in real life. Life hasn’t always been kind, and the emotions with which I endow my characters to make them live are often pulled up screaming from places I’d really rather not have revisited, and I think this is true for many writers – this is where the ‘suffering for your art’ comes in, for me at least.

Dyslexia – who thought that was a good word to plague dyslexics with? No, I’m not dyslexic, but my fingers are, and the journey from my heart to the page, via my brain and fingers, is often fraught with errors. Punctuation goes out of the window, spelling can be iffy, I type words in a jmuble, you can work that one out for yourselves. and the result is something less than intelligle. intelligable… intelligible – got there in the end. I tend to edit as I go along, before the the (two thes are better than one, obviously) main editing at the end. I know a lot of authors hate editing, but I quite like it. For one thing, I’m reconnecting with my characters, and for another, I can spot errors and polish my manuscript until it shines, which is more than I do for my poor furniture.

Oh, guilt, go away! I never said I was domesticated.

Then, of course, there’s your pesky characters. You’d think an author would be in control of what their characters do, how they react, and what they feel. Far from it. The truth is, once you’ve invented the buggers, they take on a life of their own and do everything they can to sabotage your plot – that is if you were organised enough to have a plot. The thing is that they have to act in character, and it’s no good expecting them to do something just to please you.

And when you’ve researched, written, agonised, edited, and polished, there’s marketing.

Marketing is probably every author’s biggest bugbear. We’re writers: delicate, insecure little people, most of whom suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’, and most of us aren’t comfortable with putting ourselves out there – after all, we’ve already bared our souls down to and past their g-strings in our tales, or at least that’s what it feels like. I hate writing sex scenes, and I can’t imagine what my readers must think of my sex life!

And anyway, we’re writers, not publicists. I’d love to find someone who would do all that stuff for me for next to nothing, but nowadays, who can you trust not to rip you off? Sad but true that the bona-fide marketer will miss out on earning opportunities due to the scammer and incompetent.

And when you’ve slaved over your book, tipped hundreds of half-drunk coffees down the sink, found an agent or self-published your book, hawked your wares all over social media and book fairs, given away free copies and begged and pleaded for reviews, what can you expect to earn from your labours? It’s said that eighty percent of authors sell less than, sorry, fewer than one hundred copies of a book.

I find that sad. So many great unread stories, so much unseen talent. So much dedicated work for so little profit, except, most authors, indie authors at least, don’t really expect to get rich. We write because we love writing, because our lives would be the poorer without the expression it allows us and the escapism we all need from time to time.

I have met so many lovely people in the writing community, mainly on-line: people I can call on for help, people I can call friends though I shall probably never meet them in person. So if you’re thinking of putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, (I can now use two fingers) don’t be put off by the challenges. Embrace them – it’s all part of the journey from writer to author, and the writing community will welcome you as a fellow idiot.

See my books on Amazon at http://author.to/RebeccaBryn

Or see the stories behind the stories here. https://wordpress.com/view/rebeccabrynblog.wordpress.com


3 thoughts on “A writer’s life – (or suffering for your art).

  1. Oh, boy, does this bit resound with me!
    “The truth is, once you’ve invented the buggers, they take on a life of their own and do everything they can to sabotage your plot – that is if you were organised enough to have a plot.”
    What, dear friend, is a plot? I guess it’s a neat and tidy list, or even a board with squares on it, which directs the story.
    1) My characters, like yours, would change it – absolutely guaranteed. Mind you, if they didn’t I’d know the end, and I like surprises.
    2) I’d have to sit in the STUDY where I could see the said board, adjust it slightly now and then, which means the Christmas decorations must be replaced in the cupboard. Not that Rudolph would go in; he’s too big, and yes, furniture needs polishing, and very likely the carpet requires vacuuming. At present, I can’t see much of it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sounds as if you need a tidy up as much as I do! I need another couple of lives to get done everything I need to do. However, today, I have written one word of my work-in-progress. Progress indeed.


  2. Thank you, Tom. Sadly, I lost my little doggie companion last week, we’d had her fifteen years, and I haven’t felt much like writing or promoting. The house is very empty, and I feel a bit like a spare part. However, the house is now clean and tidy, me having a sudden domestic explosion, and I’m trying to walk every day. I have finished my present bit of research for my WIP and have begun a rewrite of the first tentative chapters. Life goes on.


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