What Kind of Writing Life Do You Want?
A career in creative writing has a built-in perception that writers are starving. Most writers aren't writing for the money. They don't wake up one morning and say, "I want to make a ton of money writing." It's certainly not impossible to do, but we've been led to believe that starving writers are the norm. The same goes for artists of other arenas.
Many of us got into writing because we felt compelled to share stories. Whether those stories are about our own lives and experiences or about characters and plots we've created, we are driven by a compulsion to share stories. Even if we're writing for the money, we're still writing because we feel compelled to do so.
And it's not news to any writer that it takes a lot of hard work to achieve our dreams and goals.
But before we get hung up on that idea, we need to remember that the same thing goes for most professions. It takes hard work and determination to achieve just about any goal. The writing field is just one of many professions that require a ton of work on our part.
There's a lot to writing. Some people make it look easy, and many non-writers believe it's so easy that a monkey could do it. Thomas Mann said, "A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Maybe that's because writers and nonwriters place different values on writing.
Or maybe it's because we have different levels of experience and knowledge about writing.
How many airline passengers believe pilots don't do anything other than push a button to turn on the auto-pilot? There's a lot more that goes on behind the scenes; we're just not allowed inside the cockpit to see what's going on. And even if we did have access to a front-row seat, most of us still wouldn't understand the complexity of the job.
When I helped my husband study to get back into the airlines early last year, I was surprised by the amount of information pilots need to know and the level of detail they need to have. It's one thing to know what the buttons are for, but it's quite another to know when, why, and how to use them. And, of course, there's a lot more to flying than pushing the right buttons.
The question I'm getting at is this: what kind of writing life do you want? Do you want to write with all you've got? Or are you holding back because of some perception you have about writing?
One of the big questions we face is: What kind of writing life do we want to have?
To answer this question, we also need to consider these: Do we want to write for money? Or do we want to write for ourselves? Do we want to ghostwrite for others or do we want our own byline? Do we want to write marketing copy for businesses or do we want to write articles for magazine publications?
There aren't any right or wrong answers. But the answers will greatly depend on what kind of writing life we want. The tricky part is that deciding on the kind of writing life we want requires a little honesty with ourselves. This honesty will help us figure out what we've always dreamed of doing and what kind of writing we've always seen ourselves working on.
The point of this level of honesty is that if we're trying to write something we aren't truly interested in, there's a good chance we'll get nowhere with the goal. If we've always dreamed of writing novels or screenplays, or we have a desire to write cozy mysteries, for example, it's our responsibility to make sure we devote time to that dream or desire.
The more we tap into our dreams and goals, the better we will feel about our lives and our work. It's up to us to decide what we do, but if we're honest with ourselves, if we're trying to accomplish something that we're excited about, there's a really good chance things will start falling into place.