What Writers Don’t Tell You About Writing
Hard truths every writer should know…
Anyone who thinks writing is easy does not know what truly happens behind the scenes.
The life of a writer may seem blissful, however, no one knows how many road bumps and harsh reality checks are encountered on a daily basis.
Whether as a beginner or an experienced writer, the hard truths about writing are things you have to be prepared for.
If writing is as easy as most people think it is, everyone would be writers!
Writing is a true test of mental strength
Although the list is not exhaustive, here are some of the hidden challenges and realities which writers face:
1. We may not always receive fair pay for our writing.
Let’s address this. Most writers don’t earn as much as they deserve. In fact, a large percentage of writers earn so little for their rigorously researched pieces.
This is not to say that there aren’t writers who make a decent living from writing. There are successful writers who are able to sustain themselves with what they earn from writing.
The truth is, most writers start out with an initial plan of how they will write their way into greatness. For this reason, they go on a never-ending mission to put blood, sweat and tears into their writing. Sadly, not all of them are able to see their dreams come through.
The writing market is fully saturated and great writers are springing up every day. A lot of top writers do not anticipate stiff competition and may not be able to retain the top spot for so long, till they get thrown off balance. Not just by local competitors, but world-class contenders. With time, they simply fade into oblivion.
All of sudden, that writer who was hoping to make magic finds himself settling for lower pricing, simply because he wants to be able to pay the bills.
A recent study by the Authors Guild showed that between 2009 to 2015, a full-time author’s average income decreased by 30 percent and by 38 percent for part-time authors.
Indeed, the question of writers being paid what they truly deserve is a tricky one and as Professor Dana Weinberg says, “for most writers, publishing isn’t only about money, it’s about a lot of things, including touching readers and sharing stories, but the money is important in a lot of ways.”
It’s also no news that the demands of writing are constantly seeing writers push beyond writing to doing more intentional marketing, networking and developing a deeper connection with readers. Social media presence is unarguably a reliable medium for most writers, especially the contemporary ones.
These facts serve as constant reminders that writers should be willing to go the extra mile because times and seasons are changing.
2. There may be more rejections than acceptance.
Rejection happens to almost all writers, especially at the initial stage of writing.
Although rejection is not something a lot of writers talk about, it contributes greatly to the creative process.
Having to cope with the feeling that your work wasn’t that great or not up to standard is not a great place to be.
While most people would rather read glamorous success stories and hopeful narratives, the bare truth of publication rejection is an unavoidably sad reality that happens to even the best of writers. Sophie Mackintosh, a writer for the guardian, admits that with each rejection, she learned to write better.
Rejection hurts, but it also pushes you to do better. It’s tough, but also comes with great learning experience.
With rejection comes those voices in your head, saying you are not as good as you think you are. However, more writers are learning to accept rejection as a part of the innovative process.
With writing and submission also comes the knowledge that publishers could reject a writer’s piece for various reasons. These reasons could range from the work not being a proper fit to the editor’s mood per time and editorial policies amongst other reasons.
Whatever the reason may be, rejection still stings.
For this reason, Kim Liao, a Fulbright Taiwan Creative Research Fellow advises:
“Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year, because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances, too.”
Being a writer is a paradox, as you must continually be defiant in your mission to be resilient and put your passion down on paper while birthing beautiful experiences. Writing is one of the greatest forms of expression which shouldn’t be hidden, for fear of rejection.
At the end of the day, rejection comes with feedback and this helps improve your writing.
3. The joy of a published work is short-lived
There’s no denying that the feeling of accomplishment and recognition is something most writers experience when their work is published. However, it should be the beginning of greater works to come and unveiling of more successful pieces.
There is no contentment if a writer doesn’t keep putting his work out there.
The initial excitement from being published is followed by satisfaction and relief, then what next?
Put more writing goals in the pipeline and keep pushing till you have your next great piece! After all, isn’t that what life is all about? Set writing goals and continue crushing them.
Sharing knowledge is a process that never ends.
As Anne Lamott says, publication and temporary creative successes are experiences that every writer has to recover from. It changes you in many ways, and while still basking in the euphoria of your work being published, you have to start creating another masterpiece.
4. Writing is a journey of self-discovery
Apart from being a form of creative expression, writing is a path to understanding who you truly are. It opens a door of self-awareness that you may not have initially envisaged.
As Nancy Slonim, author of writing from the heart puts it, “writing is a fantastic way to get clarity; to be present in your life and also be a witness in your life.”
We probably don’t think so much about things, until we start writing about them.
For most writers, writing is like fixing pieces of a puzzle. You would write till you are able to explore beyond language, to deeper forms of self expression.
Writing forces you to confront situations and face your deepest fears, thoughts and feelings. It is a means of tapping into your subconscious mind and unraveling more mysteries about yourself.
Most writers express themselves better when they relate on a personal level. All that happens around you has a tendency to shape who you eventually become.
Truthfully, we are modeled by our life experiences.
Gabrielle Dominique likens writing to an “excavation” process; it pulls out our innermost conflicts while dismantling mental chains that bind us. By doing this, writing gives us a clearer picture of things and helps us maintain a state of sanity.
Digging deeper creates more space for you to process things.
As Jeff Goins writes in something he tagged ‘ the writer’s manifesto’,
“Real writers don’t write for recognition or fame or notoriety. They write, because they simply cannot not write. By their gifts and a higher calling, they are compelled to create.”
When people enjoy your writing, it means they are entertained by your thoughts. For this reason, you have to keep showing up.
5. To be a writer, you need to develop a thick skin
People won’t always like what you have written. Not everyone will agree with your viewpoint as a writer. Some people can decide to express their displeasure at your work in the most disparaging manner.
What can you do when faced with such a situation? You need to learn to embrace criticism; whether it’s constructive or harsh.
Thick skin comes with experience and emotional maturity. Variance of opinion is what makes individuals thrive in the society. As hard as it may sound, you won’t always be in everyone’s good books.
No one is immune to criticism, especially when your work is in public glare. If a great writer like J.K Rowling still gets one-star reviews for her Harry Potter Series, no one can escape bad reviews.
6. A lot of people may not take you seriously.
Most times, it could be difficult to explain to people that you are a writer.
Their first response could be to decipher if it is a part -time thing or a hobby. Then, they proceed to confirm your position by asking to see some of the pieces you have written.
Other times, you are forced to compare your life choices to that of others. It is frustrating to wait till you get your big break as a writer when all your friends are getting promoted at work and gradually climbing the professional ladder.
It’s sometimes tough to keep going when it looks like you are going nowhere.
It’s worse when inspiration does not strike when you want it to and you are stuck with your thoughts. However, one way to deal with this is to try to find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Find beauty in everything and write it down.
Admit to yourself that waiting for inspiration is nothing but a lame excuse to procrastinate.
As Rosemary Jenkinson says, ‘writing itself is an incredible act; to think that from one tiny mind comes a huge world. What could be better than making something beautiful out of your pain and pleasure.”
7. To be a great writer, discipline will take you far
Being a writer is all about hard work.
If you are not ready to surpass the hurdles along the way, you may probably need more orientation about all that writing entails.
The long nights, writer’s block, loneliness, numerous editing, self-publishing and tough skin to endure criticism from readers will give you a long hard look as you write each piece.
Well, except you do not wish to write publicly, then you can skip this brutal truth.
Discipline isn’t just a catchword or an admittance of willpower, it is an act which requires consistency and dedication.
Meet commitments, deadlines and stay consistent.
If you want to feel better about writing, discipline yourself to do more writing.
Here’s what you can do-
Begin with a goal of reaching 80% of your hourly word count in 90 minutes.
You can do this or even re-evaluate, based on whatever time works for you.
Keep it up till you reach your mark.