11 Things No One Tells You About Being a Writer

11-Things-No-One-Tells-You-About-Being-a-Writer

What’s it really like to be a writer?

If writing isn’t your day job (yet), I bet you’ve daydreamed of what it must be like. You’ve probably imagined a life spent creating fantastical characters from thin air, as you smoke a cigar, and peck away on your typewriter.

Wait—wrong century.

Let’s just say, you probably nurse a very romantic notion of what it’s like to be a writer, but here’s what it’s really like:

Grab our list of quotes from famous writers all about writing!

1. You’ll turn into a hermit.

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Writing will turn you into a hopeless hermit. Your friends will wonder where you’ve gone. Your family will think you’ve abandoned them. Meanwhile, you’ll be huddled over your keyboard, frantically typing away on your first draft and lamenting the fact that it sounds like crap.

When you enter the world of serious writing, you leave behind your social life. The closest you’ll get to interacting with the outside world is if you pack up your laptop and head to a nearby coffee shop. At least there you can look like you’re social, even if you’re in the corner, in the back… with headphones on.

2. Inspiration hits at the craziest times.

I’m going to save you money on a plane ticket. You don’t have to take a journey halfway across the world, bathe with llamas, and climb the Himalayas to find inspiration for your novel.

Look for inspiration no further than your fingers.

As Pablo Picasso once said, inspiration must find you working. I’ll revise that to say writing. If you’re waiting to get some inspiration from nature—it happens, but you’ll probably be waiting for a while.

Most writers agree that you have to write until you meet inspiration on the way. You can’t just wait for it to punch you in the stomach, because that punch may never come.

3. Deadlines are your greatest motivation.

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There’s nothing quite as inspirational as knowing you’ve got to get something on paper before a specific deadline.

That’s why I recommend that every writer enact deadlines on their writing. This is especially useful if you’re writing a book. Without a deadline, you may be tempted to kick the can down the road.

Procrastination is your frenemy.

Always give yourself a due date. It will help you accomplish much more than you thought possible.

4. It’s feast or famine.

You know the joke about being a starving writer? Yeah, that’s actually a true story.

As a writer, especially if you delve into it fulltime, you’ll have times where the floodgates open, and you’ll have so many people buying your stories and wanting to consume everything you’ve ever written. And then there’ll be other times when it’s just you and the computer.

But write feverishly during those times, because I can almost guarantee feast will return again.

5. Writer’s block doesn’t exist.

Repeat after me. Writer’s block is not real.

I know this is controversial, but I just don’t believe that it’s possible for a writer to not write. And I’m not alone in this. Lots of other writers discount the notion of writer’s block.

Here’s what’s real: perfectionism, and many writers suffer from it. They want everything to sound perfect the very first time, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes, you’re going to have to write pure manure and plow through it, with the hopes that it will create a fertile soil. (It will.)

6. You’ll get burned out.

Writer’s block may not be real, but burn out definitely is, and it can destroy you—if you let it.

While you should write regularly, it’s crucial that you take frequent breaks. I’m not just talking about coffee breaks, either.

Leave your desk, leave your house, even leave your state, and take a vacation from writing for a while.

I’m not suggesting that you go somewhere to find inspiration, either. Just go somewhere new to give yourself a break from writing.

Writing is similar to physical exercise. If you exercise non-stop, you can overtrain and actually do more harm than good. The same is true for writing.

7. You must write everyday.

Many authors write every day and so should you—if you want to be a serious writer, that is.

Just like with physical exercise, your writing will improve if you do it consistently.

Even if you write only 20 minutes a day, keep the appointment with yourself.

8. You must read everyday.

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Writers who say they don’t read disturb me. Why write if you don’t appreciate the written word? How can you possibly grow as a writer without reading the great works of other writers, past and present?

As a writer, you should surround yourself with rich language often. Read as much as you write.

9. No one takes you seriously (and that includes you).

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell others that you’re a writer. You’re afraid that people won’t take you seriously, and to be honest, they probably don’t.

The main reason why no one takes you seriously as a writer is because you don’t either. Case in point, have you ever referred to yourself as “an aspiring writer”?

That’s self-defeating language.

Have you written something—anything?

Well then, you’re not aspiring to be a writer, you are one! Just because you haven’t published a novel and landed on a best seller’s list doesn’t mean that you’re any less of a writer. In fact, if you never publish anything, it doesn’t dilute your writer-ness.

So, say it boldly to everyone who asks, “I’m a writer.” And eventually, you’ll start to accept it.

10. You need to surround yourself with other writers.

So, writers are hermits, no doubt about it. But, writers also need to socialize with each other for perspective, advice, and some semblance of sanity.

Check out this post for our favorite writing communities. Joining an online writer’s group can become a welcome respite to a life of self-imposed isolation. Plus, other writers can empathize with your struggles more than well-meaning family and friends.

11. You’ve got to sell yourself.

As a writer, you’re also a one-person-shop. You create the product, you market the product, and then you sell the product. Even if you’re not self-publishing and are opting to work with a traditional publisher, you still have to market yourself through query letters.

When you’re accustomed to living in the world of your own creation, it can be jarring to step out of it and into salesperson mode. But step out of it you must, especially if you hope to sell your book eventually.

Final Thoughts

Just like any other type of art, writing is pain and pleasure at the same time. There’s a lot of sacrifice when it comes to writing, but it’s all more than worth it at the end.

Want more? Grab our list of quotes about writing – all from famous writers!

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21 Comments

Alexia

Thank you, that was very helpful. I am writing a book and will be in need of an editor and publisher. How do I go about it?

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Natasa

Hi Alexia! To work with one of our editors, you can get started by filling out a form here. However, it’s best to learn more about getting published first. We have a post here on the difference between traditional and self-publishing and Jane Friedman has many resources on how to get published. I’d highly recommend you take a look at her advice!

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Mike

Disagree strongly. Knowing how to publish a manuscript does not write one, edit one, or, in any manner, provide the creation of a story any assistance.

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joseph olshan

I don’t agree that you have to surround yourself with other writers. Patricia Highsmith made a very good point about this. She said If you surround yourself with other writers you’ll never hear anything good that you can use. Because the other writers will keep all the good stuff to themselves. If you hang around with regular people you’ll hear lots of great, usable stuff. I think it’s best to have writers as friends but surround yourself with all kinds of people, particularly those who help give a broader perspective.

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T.E.Watson

That is very well done and stated. I have been in the industry for over 40 years and found most of it true, some not so much, but that depends on the individual and their process. Each of us is different. Good work here. I appreciate every bit of it. Thank you.

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Chet

I tried to sign up via the pop-up, but it repeatedly says my Gmail email is invalid. I’m probably not alone, which means you’re losing sign-ups.

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Lucia Sellek

Yes, me too

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C. L. Currie

I wrote a blog very similar to this. I do think it’s important to contact other writers. It’s like hanging out with other artists, actors or musicians, all of which I’ve done. You see what you have in common and what you don’t. Sometimes you can commiserate, but normally I pick up a lot of useful information. BUT, I don’t agree with sharing your work. Submitting chapters for critiquing in a select group, maybe; taking advice blindly, never; looking for common successful threads, always. Great article. I’m going to look for more.

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Simona

Took me 36 years to realize I want to write. I’ve dedicated so much of my time and energy to a lot of things, mostly things wanted and desired by others, so I kept supporting them even if deep down inside I knew didn’t belong to me, were no my dreams. I was just trying to please people around me. I am not afraid of any sacrifice I must do to fulfill MINE of a dream now. Loved your post, but I am prepared. 🙂

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Vernon

Pleasantly funny in a positive impact sense, the truths hit home. Remember though if you have to write and read “everyday”, put a space between the ‘y’ and the ‘d’. After all, my surname has a vested interest in its use!

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e

Becoming a hermit is my favorite part of becoming a writer. I enjoy spending the weekends home with our dog, typing away. Blogging has created almost all the community I need. Although, a real cup of tea with a live friend every now and then is good. If only there were a way for a career in writing to have the stability of a 9-5, minus the soul-sucking restrictions. Columnist?

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Cheryl Kalvin

Thank you for all the great advice I get through my email. But as a reader, your very last sentence is quite awkward. Maybe you should rethink it and rewrite it.

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Vincent Valentine

I’m a writer in serious need of help. I’m currently in a job that is killing me very slowly but don’t know what to do. I’d just about given up on writing. I want to write but I’m the only one that believes in me. I know I’m good, lots of people have praised past works, mostly fan work and short stories, but they’re good. I don’t know what to do or who to turn to, and to keep going like I am is incomprehensible. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Even the smallest word of encouragement will help at this point.

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w/a Morgann Weather

I feel your pain. Sounds like you have some good writing pieces. Have you thought about selecting your best short stories, making the final edits, and ePublishing an anthology. A great number of authors have published a collection of their short stories. It jump starts publishing your proudest short stories and gives you that surge to continue writing. I am sure your fanbase will respond kindly!! I am working on my collection to publish this year. The short stories selected are prequels to future novels. Best of luck in your writing journey!

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Linda Binkley

I believe this information is a game changer for me. IF I just keep it in front of me and read and reread it every day. I am retired and there is no excuse for me not to follow through. Wish me luck!!!!!!!!!!

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Lorraine Thomas

I left my job a little over a year ago to get serious about my writing. In the last 14 months I have experienced every single item on that list. Every. One. It’s all true. This is a very affirming post.

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Ashwan

You’re ignorant to say that writer’s block doesn’t exist. To say it doesn’t exist for some people may be true, but a blanket statement for every writer ever? You’re just ignoring and undermining every writer who’s experienced it and addressed it (even wonderful authors like Brandon Sanderson and the rest of the Writing Excuses team). Just because it’s not something you’ve experienced yourself doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I mean, geez, if I had a nickel for every time someone said my Bipolar or ADD doesn’t exist, just because they can power through something that I can’t (“Just be more chipper!” “Look on the bright side!” “Just sit your butt in your chair, there’s nothing here distracting you!” [like um, yeah, my brain does it for me, and you’re not helping me cope]), I’d be rich.

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David Gold

Writing requires lots of humility, especially when dealing with other writers. I have observed haughty & naughty replies above. One, you can correct anyone without putting them down. Two, you can disagree without imposing your opinion. Three, humility demands you realize that even two contradictory positions may not hold the truth.

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