10 Reasons Not to Be A Writer

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Matt Haig is a writer in the UK who worries sometimes that his blog posts go on a bit too much about the wonders of being a writer. Now he gives the other side of the story–reasons not to be a writer. See what you think.

                        Posted 24 May 2013                        by Matt Haig

Here are just the first ten reasons not to be a writer:

1.     They have bad backs. Maybe not the debut writers, but by the time of their third or fourth novel, they can hardly walk. This is why Margaret Atwood has to be winched everywhere with the aid of a helicopter. It is why Salman Rushdie is eight inches shorter than he used to be. It is why Julian Barnes always clenches his jaw.

2.     They are depressed. Writers are miserable. Think of some of the saddest people in history – Woolf, Plath, Hemingway, Sexton, Poe, Tom Clancy – and ninety per cent of them are writers. They write because they are depressed. Even Dan Brown is depressed. Every single person you pass in the street has happier brain chemistry than Dan Brown. Probably. That’s why he has to hang upside down like Bruce Wayne between paragraphs. Possibly. And why he believes life is a kind of Countdown Conundrum designed by Dante or Da Vinci or albino priests. Possibly. And look, US website health.com says that writing is one of the top 10 professions most likely to lead to depression. So be jealous of happier people, like undertakers and debt collectors. Being a writer is deciding to live your whole life as if it was soundtracked by Radiohead.

3.     They are lonely. Ever wonder why a disproportionate number of writers are on Twitter and Facebook? Because they are the loneliest people in the universe. Some days, if there is a delivery, I will feel elated for having spoken to the man from DHL about the weather. I occasionally even try and keep him on the doorstep and pretend I like football.

4.     Financial uncertainty. Writers don’t get fixed wages. They have no idea when their next cheque is coming in, or how much it will be. Generally, it takes a long time. For instance, I am still waiting for a third instalment of  an advance I signed for in 2003, and which I spent in 2002.

5.     Other writers. One of the very worst things about being a writer is the existence of other writers. There are literally thousands of writers out there, and many of them will have better Amazon rankings than you and be placed in more prominent places in bookshops. Other writers win prizes and climb bestseller lists and are photographed at all the right events. Other writers are probably having a whale of a time, naked, rolling around on the floor, glugging absinthe with other naked people while they scream Beat Poetry up at the ceiling.

6.     Self-importance. If you are a writer you are spending weeks at a time burrowing deep into your own psyche, shining a flaming torch into its cobwebbed corners. And so there is a severe risk of being a bit of a shy, self-important tosser that no-one wants to speak to at parties.

7.     Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. E L James. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Gillian Flynn. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Bookshops.

8.     Writer’s block. I was going to add to this point but I couldn’t think what to write.

9.     A writer gives up having a life for twelve months and comes out at the end of it with nothing to show for it but a one-star Amazon review written by someone in Idaho called JesusRainbowUnicorn who doesn’t like the reference to ‘acts of a sinful nature’ on page 439, third paragraph, second line.

10. Other people are not happier than you. This is especially the case with writers. Writers are never happier than you. Writers are always worrying about deadlines, editors, agents, royalties, book covers, public readings, blog reviews, whether they should move to NW1, lack of invites, the future of the book, unanswered emails, that retweet they shouldn’t have posted, updating their website. They are paid to be misery guts. Paid to wallow and absorb into themselves on gloomy voyages towards the ego. So yes, this weeks tip -don’t be a writer. If anyone has to be self-important and miserable and paranoid then I think it should be me. Now, if you’d like to excuse me, I’ve really got to go and stare out of the window for five hours. And maybe cry some pompous, Keatsian writer tears.

To read the original post by Matt Haig go here.

———————-

Like all good humor, there is an element of truth to all of these. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown……

Thoughts? Questions? Please post your comments below and I’ll reply personally.

You can also visit me here: www.susangabriel.com

 

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17 Comments

  1. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown. Dan Brown………………………………………………..

  2. Exactly, John. And the list could go on and on…. :)

  3. I took a few moments out to be the devil’s advocate:
    People will always feel sorry for you, as you will be in a constant state of angst.

    You can look out the window, staring at nothing for hours and tell people you are working.

    Opt out of a bar bill with friends by telling them how broke you are. This goes for the IRS every April too.

    You have an excellent reason to borrow money from your parents, friends saying that—the book is almost done and I have a (fill in) editor, agent, publisher who said they might be interested.

    Good pick up line. Then if you luck out you have a girlfriend upon which you can attach yourself.

    Be an expert on whatever you happen to be writing at the time—“Hey I know what I’m talking about I’m writing a (fill in) blog, book, article, press release.

    Failing is easy—just point out that there are probably about a half million books than get pitched every year, so getting one published is a little like winning the lottery.

    If you’re lucky and have a half assed website or a part-time gig for a newspaper or semi-heavy weight blog there are freebies—concerts, dinners, sporting events, political events, lectures on pre-Columbian pottery and flower shows.

    You get to learn how to handle rejection.

    Being a writer is a little like owning a pick-up truck—everybody at one time or another wants to use it. This way you can rack up favors, for using your meager talents to write letters of complaints or hate mail to ex-boyfriends, which especially works great with the ladies. They are so grateful.

    You are on the Internet so much already you get to watch a lot of porn while your mind wanders.

    It’s about a half step above being a ditch digger, except those that toil in the dirt make better money.

    And finally, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker, writing is easy, just turn on your monitor and open up a vein.

    Now don’t bother me I have to go look out the window.

  4. Hi Jeff,
    Well, you are obviously a writer. This comment is clever and kind-of sad, but hey, that’s how we writer’s are. I especially like “failing is easy.” You are right on target with that one. I am an expert at failing. And you are also so right about getting to learn how to handle rejection. I think I’ve learned enough about that one after 17 years of crafting stories.

    By the way, I am looking out the window now as I type. It’s what I consider multi-tasking.:)

    Thanks for stopping by! I greatly enjoyed your wry wit.

  5. > You are on the Internet so much already you get to watch a lot of porn while your
    > mind wanders.

    Dang! Have you been spying on me???

  6. Oh and how could I omit my signed poster of Claire Danes, which hangs on the wall behind me? http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lqrzceHd791r21jkuo1_500.jpg

    I was thinking a little more seriously about Jeff’s remarks. You can say you’re a “writer” even if, as Jeff points out, you don’t get your baby published because there are a half million books pitched every year. Being a writer isn’t like being a doctor or lawyer or airline pilot where there are objective criteria that must be tested for before you can put out your shingle. So that means writers [Rodney Dangerfield voice] get no respect, since you can say you’re a writer just by, well, saying it. So writing is one of these BS professions because anyone can do it.

    Except that…that…when Albert Einstein published his physics papers that changed the world, he was a patient officer in Switzerland and totally unknown in academic circles. (And consequently, he wasn’t taken seriously. Almost no one thought he was a real scientist. He was a clerk with a dead-end job who dabbled in mathematics.) Yet there’s no science in those papers than in most physicist’s entire lifetime output.

    Years later Einstein would be a tenured professor at Princeton, revered and even worshiped. Yet never during that time period did he produce papers with scientific impact. Now he was not just **a* scientist, but *the* scientist, yet his contributions were all behind him. Back in the days of the Swiss patent office.

    So there can be a gap between occupation and recognition of occupation. Or maybe those terms are meaningless. An idea I’ve had in the back of my head for a story involves a young writer who has a novel no one will publish, much like John Kennedy Toole. He works a menial job and still lives with his mother. For his 25th birthday some friends take him to a mountain resort as a splurge to ski, and while there he’s buried in an avalanche and dies. Flash forward to the future. His perfectly preserved body is uncovered and he’s brought back to life. And he discovers that after he died his mother managed to get the novel published (as with John Kennedy Toole), it won the Pulitzer (as with John Kennedy Toole), he became fabulously famous in death and now his house is a museum (he has to pay to gain access to his own bedroom again), and his every thought and deed is parsed and analyzed. This guy who wasn’t considered worthy of publishing when he was alive.

    I actually find it hard to believe something this obvious hasn’t been done already and being I read and see almost no science fiction, it probably has been. (I wouldn’t treat it as science fiction per se, but that’s how it’d be categorized, I’m sure.) Still, lots of things have been done before. Everything has been done before. When we were in Salzburg the first time I found myself thinking as I waited in line to see Mozart’s house how odd Mozart would have thought it that people were waiting in line to see his house. Oh, he was another failure for a long time.

    Okay, enough rambling. Now back to staring at my etchings.

  7. When you write a book you write it for those who are going to read it. What you get are two sets of reviews.

    The first set is from pure readers who’ll account for the VAST MAJORITY of those posting a review. These individuals will state how they truly felt about the book; the storyline, the characters, etc. and nothing else.

    The second set will concentrate not on the story but on how well it’s written. These individuals will tend to criticize all the book has been written, pointing out all the stylistic errors of excess words, punctuations, etc.; without really concentrating on the story itself.

    Readers are merely that they are readers. They are not familiar with all the “rules” connected with the actual writing of the book they’ve just read; they’re just as I’ve said in the above, the book itself.

  8. Thanks for your thoughtful ramblings, John. I think you need to write that short story. It is an intriguing idea. What it makes me realize is how much courage it takes as a writer to live in the day-to-day unknown of whether or not our work will get out there and actually be read. We are experts–or at least I feel like I am–at delayed gratification.

    There are many stories of artists/writers who weren’t fully appreciated until after they were dead and also many stories of writers/artists who were famous while alive, but forgotten in death. (Pearl Buck, for example.) What that has to do with Mozart’s house and your etchings, I don’t know. :) But I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. Except maybe Dan Brown, Dan Brown, Dan Brown….

  9. Hi Robin,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Your point is well taken. Bad reviews can be a downside for being a writer, for sure.

    I am a huge reader and also a writer. More than the “rules,” I appreciate a story that is put together well and keeps me turning the pages. If the writing stands in the way of the story, then it is a huge missed opportunity, IMHO. That’s why every writer needs an editor they can trust. Either one from a publishing house or small press, or a good freelance editor, if you are self-publishing. Someone who can watch your back and help you address the things that get mentioned in bad reviews.

    The awful truth of the matter is that readers are in general busy and overwhelmed people. So even if you attract a reader, you have to deliver a compelling and readable story, or you may not ever get that reader back.

  10. Hi Susan

    That’s the point I’m basically making.
    The first review [5 stars] is quite detailed and is done by a professional reviewer.
    A second merely read a few pages in the preview and said it was a cute story
    for a 13 year old child [the intended audience for the book] and then gives
    it only one star.
    A third [4 stars] said “This is a very imaginative and heart warning story of an only child,
    a young girl who moves away from all of her friends….”
    The last gave it 3 stars said the storyline is very good but the edit is horrible….

    I know there’s a VERY TOUGH martket out there in which very author is trying to have their book[s] sold. And it is these negative remarks which sometimes can undo all the positive remarks which have been made. I believe, that we, as authors need to have our potential readers concentrate on the storyline itself more than having a few extra words, errors in punctuation, or a few misspelled words. If someone looks hard enough they’ll find errors even in the Harry Potter books.

  11. John, what are you doing bragging about your Claire picture? Trying to make me jealous because you met her?? I think your novel idea is great and you should write it. But I also liked the idea for the novel about the affair with the older woman and the younger man.

    P.S. Thanks for introducing me to this blog, and to Wildflower.

  12. Claire is my sweetie!!! I didn’t want to leave her out! Were you at Peet’s yesterday? I *thought* I saw you leaving just as I was pulling up. (Stayed till 7:00.) Glad you liked Wildflower.

  13. Well, of course I love it, John, when you tell someone about Wildflower. That qualifies you for “friend for life” status. Her story seems to be getting around, which greatly pleases me.

    I love it when people “chat” on my blog, too. Makes it feel like a community. Feel free to invite all your friends, dear readers. :)

  14. John and I met at the Peets where he writes his novel and we’ve been exchanging books and authors. And coffees.

  15. Hi Deanna,
    That sounds lovely. I wish I could meet you both someday, however I live in the mountains of North Carolina so it may not be anytime soon. Thanks for stopping by!

    Hope you have a great weekend!
    Susan

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