Don’t get me wrong. As a professional writer, I am eternally grateful to make a living from what I love to do best.
However, following your passion certainly has its ups and downs. There’s the financial challenge of earning a living, the constant deadlines, the inevitable rejections, and the isolation.
Famous writers have explained the torture well:
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell
“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” —Robert Benchley
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” —Harper Lee
All true. Writing is one heck of a rollercoaster ride!
Twenty years ago, I decided to jump into writing full-time after having several articles published in magazines. Let’s just say, it didn’t go so well. Writing as a hobby was different; it was a thrill just to see my byline. But as a business, writing was super frustrating. Editors didn’t answer my queries. Smaller magazines paid on publication, not acceptance, which often meant waiting months or even a year for payment. A few editors held articles for possible publication for months then sent a standard rejection letter.
By jumping the gun too soon, I was forced to temp as a receptionist at a hotel chain to make ends meet – a job I absolutely detested. Some days were spent crying in frustration and I swore off writing – not for the first or last time.
Many years later, I was finally able to write full-time, but the highs and lows continued. For instance, when an agent agreed to represent my first YA novel – oh, what a high that was! I was dancing on tables. But when the book didn’t sell and my agent dumped me, my self confidence and emotions took a dive. Later, I received three journalism awards and had a book I co-wrote published by McGraw Hill. I was on top of the world! Then my second novel was rejected by agents and publishers sending me crashing to the ground.
You get the picture.
So how do you stay happy through the crazy ups and downs if you want to be a writer?
Here are a few tips:
- As I learned the hard way, don’t quit your daytime job before you have a steady income. By the way, most writers have a source of back-up income or a part- or full-time job so they can live out their dream.
- If you want to write full-time, come up with a plan of action. List your monthly and yearly goals. It’s great to have a passion and a dream, but if you don’t have a plan in place, it won’t become a reality. Be prepared. Becoming a professional writer takes time, effort, patience, perseverance, and sheer determination.
- Talk to your partner. You are going to need his or her support. Be honest and realistic. Have a time-frame for meeting your goals. If it takes longer than anticipated, and there’s an excellent chance it will, have a good backup plan.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In other words, don’t make your whole world about writing and publishing or you will go completely bonkers. Have a well-balanced life that includes time for your spirituality, your loved ones, and other interests.
- Writing should be a satisfying experience on its own. Getting into print is just a bonus. Don’t live and die by whether you get published or not. As Allen Ginsberg said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” Simply writing in a journal can be rewarding as I wrote in my blog. Or expressing yourself through poetry is a wonderful creative outlet. Financial success is not the measure of your success as a writer.
If you are truly meant to be a writer, you won’t give up or allow all the many setbacks to discourage you to the point of quitting. Use the tips above to retain your joy and enjoy the journey.
If you’d like more advice on becoming a writer, you can check out a recent guest blog I wrote on how to get published on Editing Addict. Or if you’re interested in writing in retirement, take a look at an article I wrote for Retirement and Good Living.
Ray Bradbury, who I was privileged to hear speak at a writer’s conference years ago, always had the best advice. I’ll end this article with one of his great quotes:
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”