Live to Write, Write to Live

By any standards, being a writer is not a sane life-choice.

It takes a monumental feat of perseverance and self-belief to achieve the goal of being published, usually over a long (sometimes considerably long) amount of time with no promise of success at the end of it, save of course for the personal satisfaction of having written and, hopefully, having been read. Whilst pursuing this crazy dream, the writer must also juggle the usual demands of a modern life: family, work, studies, and many other responsibilities; so finding the dedication to apply themselves in whatever limited free time they have to sit down in a room and write takes incredible self-discipline, especially when deep down we would really rather be relaxing, enjoying a Babycham or two, or, just for once, sleeping. But for those bitten with the writing bug the dream, and the will to succeed, is so strong that despite the madness of it all, we just have to do it. As Samuel Lover said, "When once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen". It's an oft-quoted maxim that a writer must write at least a million words before they reach a publishable standard (no shortcuts here, Mister!), and I think that over the course of that long, long period there is a real danger of the writing losing focus, that they may end up living to write, not writing to live, which is how it should be. And is it any wonder? To spend so much of your time and energy fighting for those few precious hours, to sacrifice sleep and relaxation and 'downtime' to put pen to paper, when everyone and everything around you is screaming at you to do this, that or the other. How much pummeling will your self-belief take before you throw your hands in the air and say, 'Okay, I give up. No one cares about what I'm doing here anyway. This is all just a pipe dream, so forget it.'

But we don't. Somehow we find a way to carry on doing it, and then, one day, out of the blue, those gloomy old clouds break, and you find someone who really likes your work and who wants to publish you, and then, before long, you are published and you're frantically working on the next book and starting to make plans and although you still don't have that much free time it all just seems to be easier, the writing seems to be flowing these days, and - oh wow, just got some feedback from someone who has read your book and they're saying how much they loved it and can't wait for your next book and the one after that. And God bless them. Things like that make the whole crazy journey worth it for a while. And then, with any luck, you're able to achieve the real dream - writing to live. That is, being successful enough to start enjoying life, maybe even giving up the crappy day job and just being paid to write. My, that's a great dream right there, isn't it?

Anyone who comes to writing and thinks it's an easy ride to fame and fortune is either naive, seriously ill-informed or simply deluded. Maybe even all three. And now, of course, with the advent of self-publishing platforms such as Kindle and Smashwords it has become much easier to get published, but the maxim must not be forgotten: no matter how good a writer thinks they are, they must still write at least a million words before their work is ready for the world. In that respect, there are no shortcuts. An apprenticeship must still be served.

Yes, being a writer is not a sane life-choice. But for those willing to put in the work and the dedication (and if they're lucky - luck is always a major factor) the rewards can be great.

Keep writing. And keep dreaming.


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