I read an interesting article on The Guardian website today about the life of a writer, and the public perception of what a writer's life looks like.
This article, entitled 'You think writing's a dream job? It's more like a horror film' really made me think. In all honesty, at first I was quite annoyed at the author - Tim Lott seems to complain a lot about his life as a writer, even though to all extents and purposes, he's enjoyed what I would consider to be a very successful writing career to date. Winning awards? Generous advances from publishers? Sign me up on the dotted line!
But as I read through the article, I realised that what he was speaking was the truth.
Writing is lonely. There's no way around that. If you're not comfortable in your own company, then you probably won't get very far as a writer. As an author, you have to spend A LOT of time in your own head and it's not always pretty. You have to get used to spend every spare minute you have furiously scribbling away, obeying the whims and commands of the imaginary people inside your mind. If this was any other profession, you'd probably be sent straight to a psychiatrist to have a long chat. But we're writers - it's simply what we do. And if you want to write for a living, it's just something you have to get used to. You don't have to completely cut out everything in your life - but you do have to be prepared to make some sacrifices (watching TV/generally relaxing in the evenings is one for me) if you want to get serious about your writing.
Writing also takes a lot dedication and time. Unless you have that burning passion - that fire to write a story because if you don't you'll simply explode - you might as well give up right now. I'm not saying that in order to be a writer you have to churn out book after book in quick succession - time is irrelevant. Some of the greatest literary masterpieces took decades to write, but that's okay - the point is, they got written. The authors simply had to write their character's stories, no matter how long it took them. And I think this is one of the few industries (barring professional sports) where perseverance is key. Every day you've got to have that self belief in your writing, you've got to believe that you can finish your book, you've got to keep going - because if you don't do it, who else will?
And finally, I'm going to re-quote Tim Lott's quote by George Orwell, which I'm going to remember from now on:
"...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 which one can neither resist nor understand."
For me, writing is not a choice. Thinking up new story ideas is not a choice. I didn't just sit down one day and think, 'hey, you know what would be fun? Writing a novel! Let's go!' It's just something that I've always done from a very young age. I don't ever remember a time (barring the 'Black Period' where I suffered from extreme anxiety and panic attacks and thought I was going mad. But more on that another day) when I haven't been constantly making up different scenes and characters in my head. Apologies for the cliche, but I do strongly believe that writing is my calling in life. It's the one thing that's always stuck with me, no matter what else has been going on. I am completely and utterly a slave to the stories in my head.
But unlike Tim Lott, who would apparently rather swap his life for George Clooney's, I never would. There is nothing in this world that I would like to do more than write for a living. Even if I'm not successful; even if I don't win any awards or become a millionaire, I know that in the end, I wouldn't give up my writing for the world.
So what are your thoughts? If, given the choice, would you give up writing...?