If I don’t write I feel bad. I don’t mean bad in a wistful – should have worked a bit harder kind of way, I mean bad as in I feel totally crap and really guilty because I feel like I am wasting my time doing non-writing things.
IS THERE A BETTER CAREER?
I have thought of another career – maybe one where you are guaranteed a living wage, maybe a little security, even paid holidays but there is nothing I would rather do than write.
I know I would regard myself as a sellout for putting down the pen and giving up. I feel like I didn’t choose writing, more that writing chose me.
I am not complaining, writing is something I love to do. I love all its forms, non-fiction, fiction, screenplays, articles etc.
However, what I love most is making things up. The truth is, I find the fictional world a lot easier to negotiate than the real world.
The characters I create may have immense difficulties, or obstacles in their path but I have placed those obstacles there myself and as a writer I have choices.
I can steer their path and see them get through those obstacles, or I can choose not to – depending on the story I want to write.
Choices in the fictional world are infinite, not so in reality. Sometimes we have no choices; or find ourselves with two, or more choices with each one being less desirable than the others.
Sometimes life simply continues to unfold in front of us like pages of some random book we would never have chosen to read. In fact, I’m surprised more of us don’t write.
WHY CHOOSE A WRITER’S LIFE?
So why don’t more people chose a writer’s life? Like many questions there is a range of answers. Some people recognize the difficulties in the life of a writer and choose something else, maybe something easier or maybe something more lucrative.
Others don’t have the confidence. They feel they don’t have a good enough story to tell, or if they do, don’t have the ability to tell it.
Telling a story takes skill and practice and not everybody is suited to working alone, with their own mind as their only equipment, thinking and questioning themselves, making something out of nothing and hoping that something will turn out to be what readers want to buy.
What do readers want to buy is the big question. Writers are told to focus on finding the truth of the story and on telling the best story you can tell, yet there is the not inconsiderable matter of the market.
WRITING FOR THE MARKET
The best story you can write may not be the one readers want to buy. Writers must eat and pay their bills just like everyone else, so the writer must hold two contradictory thoughts.
Some writers are so successful they can live, or write, how they choose. Harper Lee is one of these. She only had one book published – the wonderful ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’.
As we all know this book was immensely successful. So much so it presumably provided her with enough money to either pursue other interests, or to keep her writing private if she chose.
There was no sequel and up until recently when ‘Go Set A Watchman‘ was published, there was no other novel. Given what we know of her over the years we understand that this was her choice.
Many writers, including myself don’t have this choice. We haven’t made enough money to retire so we keep writing to earn our living and pay our bills.
If I didn’t enjoy writing this might be a problem but as I said above, I do and so I continue to experience the pleasure, satisfaction and sometimes frustration of my writing life. Life is a series of ups and downs right?
I wonder how Harper Lee enjoyed her life without writing. Was she frustrated? Was she strangled by the urge to write or was she liberated by the freedom not to. Was it financial security that stopped her writing? Or did she feel she only had one story she needed to tell?
We may never know. We can only guess at her mind but the question of whether she chose to see her manuscript published, or not is, one that fascinates me.
I hope that the choice was hers and hers alone. It would be awful to know that the pages of Harper Lee’s life have unfolded before her like some random book she would have chosen to read, never mind written and published. Let’s hope. Let’s see. In the meantime here’s some more articles about my own writers life:
Giving up the day job – should you or shouldn’t you?
Political satire – when is it funny and when is it cruel?
Don’t tell me nobody wants to read my stories – when rejection hurts.
Talking to strangers – you never know what might happen.
Go Set A Watchman – Did Harper Lee really want this published?
Writing for the market – selling your soul or making a living?
Losing My Shadow – the death of a writer’s best friend.