I’ve come to the conclusion (specifically after writing things like What Your Server is Really Thinking, What Your Barista is Really Thinking, and The 2013 Guide to Tipping) that if you don’t work a job/career, there’s no possible way you will understand what the other person is going through. I can sit here and bitch and moan and whine and complain all I want about the restaurant industry, and you can read it and (potentially) laugh or relate, but if you have never worked in this industry, you wouldn’t know what it was really like and think I’m just bitching and moaning.
If you’re like my former evil hobbit witch teacher, you’ll think that because you don’t understand what it’s like to be in my shoes, then I have nothing to complain about because you think your problems are worse.
I’m fine with that, because I’m open to the fact I don’t know what it’s like to be anyone but me, but don’t be obnoxious about it. Alas, I digress to the point…
It’s much the same way with writers. People may admit they don’t know how to make a sentence, aren’t even sure what constitutes a paragraph, but think writing is easy for a writer.
“All you do is sit at your computer and type all day.”
“You can just self-publish to the Kindle, that’s easy — anyone can do that.”
“It’s not really a job, it’s more like a hobby.”
Much like Tall People, Writers have some problems. We got some issues. We got some life-changing, mind-altering shenanigans we have to deal with, and I feel like all of you non-writers and non-creative, money-obsessed self-absorbed crazies out there need to understand what it is we do.
Step above a hobby, step below a job
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. When they ask if I’ve been published or if I have any articles, or any of that other annoying business I’m asked, I of course, answer no.
“I blog and I’m working on a novel right now.”
Then, they ask me again. “So…what do you do?”
How do you pay your bills?
I’m a writer. First and foremost. I feel, somewhere in the deepest pit of my gut, this is what I’m meant for. Perhaps I’m right. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps I’ll make it. Perhaps I won’t. But, much like when you ask a married couple how they knew and they say, “When you know, you know…” That’s how I feel about writing. If I go a day without it, I feel off. It’s almost like an oxygen supply gets taken away from me if I have to step away from my blog, novel, journal, or anything that helps me get my mind straight.
Just because I’m not published, and just because I don’t get paid for it (yet — although I do have a client for editing purposes now), doesn’t mean it’s not my “job.”
When I go to work (the one that pays my bills, not the one that defines what I do), I’m always tired. I wake up at 10 every morning, make a huge cup of coffee (from a coffee cup I stole from Borders when they were closing — muahaha), sit down, read some blogs, read some books, write, edit, blah blah — all of that. All day. From 10 until I have to get ready to pay my bills.
When I go to work, I’m tired. When the cooks ask me if this is my only “job,” I say yes, because I know they won’t understand — and they think I have no reason to be tired.
I have a hobby I want to make into a career, yet I’m not quite paid for it, leaving me at a step above a hobby, but a step below a job — is that a better answer?
Unless published, a Writer is unrecognized
No one takes me seriously when I tell them I haven’t been published. They assume there isn’t about 700,000 other people in the world (if not more, because that was just the first number that popped into my head) who want the exact same thing, and if I haven’t been published, clearly I’m not a good writer.
Well, perhaps they’re right about my talents, because that’s all based on opinion, but it’s not true for every writer. I’ve read some damn good stuff before from people who are trying to get published, and it makes me question my entire life’s existence, and they can’t get anywhere either.
In a world of 9 billion people, a lot of us share common interests. Sharing common interests with a large plethora of other people does not speak to your amount of talent, it merely speaks to the amount of people you’re competing against. It’s so hard to get your voice out there and heard when you’re standing in the middle of an ocean of people trying to do the same thing. It doesn’t mean I lack drive, motivation, or talent — it just means the right people haven’t heard my voice yet.
We have to create people
Do you think parenting is hard? Do you think being in your 20s and finding out who you are and taking all of your life’s lessons to apply them to your personality is daunting?
Try doing that for — however many characters you create.
When I wrote the first draft of my novel in 2007, barely 18, about to enter college, and way naiive, I thought all I had to do was write the first draft, get it edited, and get it published.
Much like all of you non-writers out there, I was so…so very wrong.
I’m on my 7th revision, I’ve had to create character backstories for 25 people (meaning birth dates, siblings, zodiac signs, name meanings, background, parents stories, education, interests, everything) to make my characters work. The characters don’t start on page one of the book, they start however many years before the character’s age is. They have to have motivation, drive, purpose, and you need to do a looooot of extraneous work no one will ever read (unless you become J.K. Rowling and sell it for a lot of money), but you need it to make your story believable.
How many fights has your character been in?
What’s the worst disease they’ve ever had?
What makes them angry?
You get it.
We have to create a world where people (like you non-creative folk) can live, and sink your teeth into the believable characters we must mold into readable, likable antagonists (and protagonists) in order to make our writing pop.
Carpal tunnel, and various other hand issues
I’m 23 years old, and I’m already exhibiting symptoms of carpal tunnel from all the time I spend on my computer. (It really isn’t as luxurious as it sounds.) I sprained my neck at the top of my spine (although how, I don’t know), and sitting in my desk chair to type hurts it. If it’s possible to pull a muscle in your hand from typing, I’ve pulled the one that connects to my middle finger. (Ah, sweet irony in day to day life.)
People don’t think about all of the pain writers have to go through to get their works finished. Good gracious, on my seventh revision right now, I’m 61,000 words in and I still have 92,000 left. This post, as of this word, is 1247 words and I’ve been working on it for 45 minutes. Think 92,000 words is going to be done by the end of the week? No.
If you think writing for writers is easy, spend the day with one. There’s a reason we ask you 100 questions about your past (it’s all about understanding what makes you you, so we can learn how people work.) There’s a reason we spend a lot of time alone (tell me it’ll be interesting to sit next to a writer and watch them type.) There’s a reason we talk to ourselves (our characters have become real people to us, and I don’t know about the rest of the world but if mine were really real they would be my best friends). We work hard, we’re under appreciated, and there’s a huge amount of us out there all trying for the same thing.
Writers need some more R-E-S-P-E-C-T, because, as I’ve stated before somewhere on this blog — we make your life interesting.