No one said that writers have it easy. If they did, you call them a dirty, dirty liar. Or weep into their chest and cry how true it is. Let’s face it: the road for many is long and bumpy. It’s full of potholes that many fall into and never come back. It’s full of Mad Max-style bikers who are hell-bent on derailing you. Oh, and you’re drunk. And riding a bicycle. That’s also on fire. But if you can prepare yourself for the obstacles you have to face you have a much better chance of being able to overcome them.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common problems writers face and why the writer’s life isn’t for everyone.
Self-doubt is probably the number one reason so many writers give up. We can’t help but feel as though we are kidding ourselves, that one day our readers are going to notice the hacks we are and call us out on it. We are our own biggest critics, we lose faith and pedal into the nearest pothole all while yelling ‘Weeeeee’ before erupting into a blazing fireball. We become fearful that we’ll never be good enough or that we’ll run out of ideas. Screw that damn elusive finish line, right? It keeps moving. It’s not playing by the rules. Plus, there’s no one standing there cheering, so why am I putting myself through all this?
What you need to remember is that pretty much every writer experiences this, so at least most other writers you know are going through the same crippling self-doubt. That’s good, right? To tackle self-doubt we must try to remind ourselves that there are plenty of successful writers out there who struggled just like you for many years, and suffered the same thoughts, but in the end, it is perseverance and good old-fashioned stubbornness that got them to where they are today (at the top of the bestseller lists). Therefore, you just need to keep pedalling forward no matter how much those flames burn.
Not Everyone Likes You
Remember those Mad Max bikers I talked about in the intro? It wasn’t just because I was watching Mad Max before writing this (okay, partially the reason), but also because they are out there. All writers are going to be told their writing isn’t good enough at one point or another. Someone might leave you a bad review or you may have a friend or relative critique your work only to find out it wasn’t really their ‘cup of tea’, or be less polite and call it a load of balls and that you should quit writing and pointlessly wearing down your laptop’s keys.
Whatever criticism you face you must remember that it is impossible to please everyone. Some people won’t like your writing. It’s harsh but that’s the way it is. Does everyone in the world like pineapple on a pizza? No. It’s as simple as that. Does this mean your writing is as worthless and awful as putting fruit on a pizza? Of course not! You just have to find those other weirdos who like pineapple on pizza and ignore all the others who claim bacon is far superior as a topping.
It Takes a Lot of Discipline
I love taking naps. I really do. Sadly, it doesn’t help towards writing my next book. Writing consistently takes huge amounts of self-discipline. It’s damn hard. It hurts. It makes me sleepy. So very sleepy… And yet, you gotta keep pedalling that flaming push bike. It isn’t going to do it by itself. Many writers find themselves struggling to keep up and eventually decide to take a pit stop and never come back. Plain and simple case of burn out.
In order to be a successful writer, you need to be strict with yourself. Make a writing timetable and stick to it, even if you have to sacrifice other things in your life — such as sweet, sweet, delicious naps. If you make time for your writing, those finish lines will get closer with each day.
Many writers suffer from writer’s block which can feel truly debilitating at times. Running out of ideas of getting stuck halfway through a story, worrying if you should continue the flaming bicycle metaphor or go back to the pizza comparison. This is a real worry for many writers and the number two killer of great, unpublished novels.
If you get writer’s block, try putting aside your project for a while and wipe the crust away from your bleary, bloodshot eyes. Try free writing, work on a shiny new project for a while or even go for a walk or see if you can remember how to communicate with people without using a keyboard. Do whatever it takes to avoid writer’s burnout.
No One Believes in your Book
It is incredibly rare for a writer to go through their career without suffering a rejection. You’re minding your own business, riding your flaming bicycle away from your violent pursuers towards an elusive and ever-moving finish line, when suddenly someone races past and yells, ‘nice bike, loser!’ Yeah, I’m butchering this metaphor at this point, but screw it. The point here is that for most writers rejection happens throughout their writing life.
Rejection can be crushing but it’s something we must learn to accept. Treat it like a learning experience. You did something wrong, now step back and analyze what it is. Just remember that some of the most famous authors in the world were rejected — it just took one person to give them a chance, and that could happen to you too.
There is so much competition out there these days that often writers can feel completely overwhelmed. How can they possibly expect your book to get noticed amongst the millions of others? Getting your book noticed can feel like you’re just
one sperm racing against all other — yeah, I’m just going to stop that metaphor right there.
Luckily there is plenty you can do to market your book. Writing and editing the book is just the first hurdle because guess what? There’s another finish line ahead! And another… and another… and probably another. I don’t know.
The Pay Generally Sucks
If you’re in the writing game to get rich, then, oh boy, jeez… this is going to be awkward. Like, remember how awkward your first sex ed talk was? Kind of like that. Except worse. And more graphic. And with an unrealistically sized banana for illustrative purposes. And probably fire. Lots of fire. And hell, your parents probably even gave you a few bucks and a bottle of whiskey after the talk to help you forget. Not so much in the writing game.
Most writers accept the fact that this is not how they are going to make their fortune–but they do it anyway, because, damn is it fun to tell a good story! That moment when you finally hold your printed book over your head like a trophy and yell, “‘Ey, Adfrian, I dif ‘et! I’mn na champ!” All the beatings and bloodshed will be worth it. As they say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words … eventually, create a book which earns a few bucks.”
That’s how the saying goes, right?
So, you go ride that flaming bicycle down that pot-filled road. You wield your club against those attacking you from all sides and yell ‘Booga Booga!’ Or, you know, you could sit down in your chair and write. Your choice, really.