In the ten years I’ve been writing novels, I’ve learned that the general perception of a writer’s life is that it’s a good gig. Nice work if you can get it. In fact, hardly work at all when you think about it. I’ve written before about how insulting it is to be told by someone that he or she would love to give up work altogether and ‘just’ write.
Naturally, I make it my business to put these innocents right. Yes, there are joyous parts of this existence, but it is a full time job (and more) and, like all full-time jobs there are sweet spots and dark moments, highs and lows. And if you’re the kind of personality drawn to the sort of stories I am – emotional, dramatic, mysterious – then the chances are you have the type of heart that experiences those highs and lows very intensely. Here are five of each:
1 The intellectual satisfaction. No other job has given me this much.
2 Opening my post to find a finished copy of my new book. Placing it on various surfaces and at different angles to admire it. Fingering the embossed bits.
3 Being able to work flexible hours (though not any fewer than anyone else).
4 Working with an agent and editor who you respect and admire and who let you cherry-pick their wonderful ideas to pass off as your own.
5 Having writer friends – and non-writer friends – to share your successes and failures. No woman is an island, even if her new book is set on one.
1 When your book sinks without a trace even though you think it might be rather good.
2 Being rejected (or ‘passed’ on, in the gentler parlance of publishing). This happens a lot, even when your character has had quite enough building already.
3 Reading a one-star review of your work on Amazon and seeing your work described as ‘pointless’. Wishing you could wring the reviewer’s bloody neck while knowing that’s not a gracious or seemly response.
4 It meaning something to you when you give a friend or family member a gift of a signed copy of your book, only for that person not to read it or ever refer to it again. (I’m sorry, but that’s just rude.)
5 Not being able to switch off your writer’s mind at night, at the weekend, when you’re supposed to be on holiday – or ever, really. Knowing you are not concentrating on your child’s story because you are thinking about your own. Knowing you are only pretending to compete at Uno or share the joy of Phineas and Ferb when you are in fact having an idea. Feeling guilty, basically, for prioritising made-up people over real ones. Then being shameless enough to write about that guilt for ready money.
The disappearance of
Emily Marr is out now,
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