It is said that writers are a different breed. Hopefully the word different isn’t used in place of a less ambiguous word…like warped.
I don’t know if writers can claim exclusive rights to such a label, but they definitely don’t fit neatly within most accepted classifications.
With that being said, I’d like to talk about some annoyances and problems only writers will understand,
because in many respects we are different—but not in a bad way. There are just some things that we deal with on an almost-daily basis that normal people would react to with a shrug and a “So?”
Here is a partial list of such things – but it’s NOT a Top Ten List…
Temptations, Obligations and Favors:
If you’re like me, you have a full time job, and the majority of your writing is done on the weekends.
While your friends are firing up the grill, hitting the beach or taking the Harley out for a spin, you’re shuffling to your home office in your pajamas with a bagel and a cup of coffee thinking about your target word-count and hoping the muse hasn’t gone fishing.
We don’t complain about it – it’s the life we’ve chosen.
We voluntarily sacrifice our weekends to write because our day job prevents us from writing (much) during the week.
We intentionally avoid the extra cocktail on Friday night so we’ll have a (reasonably) clear head Saturday morning when we attack the keyboard.
Those two days of writing are precious to us and we’ll gladly become hermits in exchange for a few thousand words.
Sometimes life happens.
It’s a struggle to resist the invitation from your (non-writer) best friend to go do that thing you love to do. I know, personally I’ve cursed myself many times for sitting on my Harley on a gorgeous Florida Sunday rather than sitting at my desk.
It doesn’t happen to me as often as it used to, but many of us, whether we like it or not, have families who don’t care how close you are to finishing the first draft of your Magnum Opus…you told them you’d do something and now it’s time to deliver on your promise.
Perhaps the most unfair trade of all…your best friend needs your help.
Maybe they’re moving, need a ride to the airport or they need a second set of hands while they shave the family ferret. Regardless of the magnitude of the request, you must weigh the potential production of your writing day against the chances you will need help painting the garage someday.
Phone calls, doorbells and other nuisance interruptions:
Here’s the way it usually happens…
You sit down at the computer to write. The dog has been walked, the cat is napping, the kids are in school (or maybe they’re napping with the cat), you have your beverage-of-choice, and your mind is primed for cranking out some serious words…
Soon the only sound in the house is the quietly hypnotizing click-click-click of your keyboard as the prose pours from the depths of your soul.
As you type, you subconsciously rehearse your acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize…it’s going that well.
That’s the moment it happens…
Without fail, as if the writing Gods are telling you “Not today, Shakespeare.”
The doorbell rings, your cell phone vibrates or a tornado hits.
The exact nature of the interruption doesn’t matter…it’s the fact that it happened during your groove, because by the time you go to the door to tell the intruder you aren’t interested in accepting Christ into your heart (although with the murderous thoughts stampeding through your head it might not be a bad idea to hedge your bets a little), then go to the bathroom (which you have been putting off for hours) and top off your beverage, then sit back down to continue with the magic…the magic has disappeared like a rabbit in a hat.
Try to tell a normal person about how something seemingly minor can be so disruptive and they look at you like you’re…different.
The Non-Sympathetic Spouse/Significant Other:
There is a fascinating metamorphosis which occurs in some (not all…some!) significant others.
When they meet you, the fact that you are a writer (seemingly) impresses the hell out of them. When they introduce you to their friends and family they always qualify it…“This is so-and-so…he/she is a writer.”
They are fascinated with the process. They ask all sorts of questions, offer assistance with critiquing, etc. and gush at the prospect of having a character named for them in your book.
The first time you have to cancel a date, or turn down an invitation to a couples’ night out because you’re writing they are understanding and sympathetic. The second and third time they are disappointed, but still respectful of your situation. Anything after the fifth time and you get the look.
If it becomes a regular occurrence your status in their social circle changes…
Where it used to be “my S.O. is a writer” (spoken with respect and adoration) it is now “they blew me off again because they’re still working on a stupid book which they’ll never finish but they think it’s this work of art, but they won’t let anybody read it until it’s finished…which will be the day after never!”
It’s amazing how quickly your writing can go from being a source of pride to a bone of contention.
No Seriously…How Much Do You Make?:
Probably the question that annoys independent authors more than any other is the dreaded…“So are you making any money selling your books?”
Using myself as an example…Many of my friends and family were aware of my first novel’s (Living the Dream) pending release, and within a week of the big day began badgering me about any new income I might be enjoying. It was more than a little demoralizing telling people that my first royalty check was for a whopping $2.01. It was more demoralizing when a few of them snickered at my attempt to hit the big time.
Many times I had to restrain myself from asking them “How many books have you sold?”
Now that I have ten books under my belt, and I have a semi-regular (if not huge) income, it’s a little easier to hear the question…but just as my success has changed over the years, so too has the question.
It starts off the same, but upon hearing that I am actually making, what I call, gas money – the questioner then proceeds to the dreaded follow up… “Really? After all those books, that’s it?”
These people have no idea how narrowly they escape hospitalization.
My concern is the day somebody hits me with follow up #2 –“Don’t you think it’s time to quit?”
If and when that happens I may need bail money…just sayin’.
Fish or Cut Bait:
There is a tenet in the writing world that says “…in order to be a good writer you first have to read – a lot.”
Back in the day, before I started writing I read everything I could get my hands on (with some shameful exceptions). I would read during my lunch break, I would read after work, before bed, and it wasn’t unusual to see me reading in line at the DMV or the Post Office.
My favorite bookstore (The New England Mobile Book Fair – Newton Mass) probably closed early on the days I visited. Okay – that’s a slight exaggeration, but I don’t remember ever leaving there without spending several hours and at least a couple of hundred dollars. Going there was like a pilgrimage for me – for which I would save up the way most people save for vacations or new cars.
Once I started writing, my reading time gradually diminished as the amount of time I devoted to writing, and other writing related tasks (which we’ll discuss in a minute), took control of my spare time.
Trying to split time between writing and reading is like a fisherman who must decide between fishing and cutting bait.
In order to catch fish you have to throw your hook in the water, but a hook without bait is just a hook, no self-respecting fish would be fooled! So that means you need to bait the hook. Many fishermen where I’m from use frozen bait—shrimp, squid, or some other bait-fish—which needs to be cut before being put on the hook, so cutting bait is a necessary chore, like reading.
I don’t know if this problem plagues other writers as badly as it does me, but one thing I do know…I miss cutting bait!
The (necessary) Evil that Writers Do:
Writing has become my drug of choice in the past six years.
It started as a way to pass time, but quickly evolved into the thing I don’t have enough time for (see above).
Ironically, the reason I don’t have enough time for writing is all of the peripheral duties which are part and parcel to the job, but do not contribute to the precious word count.
There are many such tasks, but they can all be placed into one category…Marketing.
That’s right…the M-word.
I’ve always said (well, not always – but for several years now) that writing the book is the easy part. Selling it is where the real work starts.
If you are independently wealthy marketing is simply something you pay others to do, but, as I stated somewhere above, my income from writing is donated to Big Oil every month. This means I am not only the head of the marketing department for Blindogg Books, I am also the graphic artist, the copy writer, the secretary and the gopher (I go for this and I go for that).
My job description includes, but is not limited to, the following;
- Maintaining a presence on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest
- Promoting myself locally by attending social gatherings, networking events, open mic events and book signings
- Designing marketing materials – e.g. bookmarks, posters for events, banners, tee shirts, etc
- Attending book signings of other authors, whenever possible (quid pro quo)
- Monitoring sales and adjusting marketing efforts accordingly
- Researching new marketing techniques and how to make the best use of my time (yeah, right!)
- Promoting other authors as much as possible (again – quid pro quo)
- Maintaining a blog as well as monitoring the blogs of other authors for useful information on writing and (yeah, you guessed it) marketing
These tasks are hardly things I would complain to my union rep about, but they are time consuming. I conservatively estimate that for every hour I spend writing I devote at least three to the above responsibilities. I would rather be writing, but if I didn’t do the leg work writing would be nothing more than a hobby—and I am not ashamed to admit (as I describe here) that, while I definitely enjoy writing, it surpassed hobby status during the third re-write of Living the Dream.
Why Didn’t I Write that Down?:
I’ve heard it said that the faintest ink is stronger than the best memory.
I don’t remember where I heard it, because I didn’t write it down, which brings me to my next annoyance…
As writers we never know where or when inspiration will strike.
I’ve had ideas come to me at the weirdest times – the idea for Eyewitness Blues came to me while I was playing softball.
Luckily there was a pen and some paper in the dugout so I was able to write down the thought, lest it be lost forever…like some of the other ideas I failed to document.
If you spend any time on Facebook you’ve seen the meme which says “The biggest lie I tell myself…I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember it.”
I suspect it has happened to every writer at one time or another.
You’re driving along digging a song on the radio and an idea for a novel pops into your head. You tell yourself you’ll remember to write it down when you get to your destination, but by the time you get there the only thing you remember is the moron who cut you off in traffic, or some other such nonsense.
Sadly, there have probably been thousands of great novels lost this way, because no matter how good your memory is, you still forget stuff. I have a better than average memory and I know I’ve lost a few best sellers.
You would think that, as writers, we would write things down reflexively…but you’d be wrong.
Each of us carries a device in our pocket that has the capability to record random thoughts with the push of a button (provided you have the app), but do we use it?…nah. Too much of a hassle, and if we do remember to record our inspiration, we forget to play the recording back…our cellular service contract expires, we get a new phone and *poof* – your idea for the next Great American Novel is Gone with the Wind…so to speak.
I’m sure there are many more annoyances that plague writers, but unfortunately, I don’t have time to research and document them…I need to get busy writing.
I’m on the first re-write of Full Circle and I’ve surpassed my allotted blogging time for the week.
As always – thank you for reading