In the years before I became a full-time writer, I used to dreamily imagine what it would be like. I’d stare out of my dreary office window and fantasise about afternoons spent in arty cafes, chewing wistfully on a biro, wearing trendy glasses and an outfit that subtly hinted at my artistic nature. I imagined myself getting up early to go for walks on the beach, barefoot probably.
Mornings would be spent in dusty libraries, and evenings sipping wine at book readings and chatting about my projects to my fascinated contemporaries. I assumed my partner and friends would be wonderfully supportive, clamouring ‘more, more!’ every time I gave them a sneak preview at what I’d been working on, and of course, without really trying that hard (but after a few rejections so I could feel like I’d paid my dues) I’d be published and go on to become really witty but also totally humble on daytime chat shows, while wearing trendy glasses and an outfit that subtly hinted at my artistic nature – of course.
So when the time came for me to finally take the plunge, give up my day job and start working as a writer full-time, it was, to say the least, something of a shock.
I think I did, in fact, spend my first few days on the job sitting in cafe’s, until I realised that my back was killing me, I was becoming dangerously addicted to caffeine, and my productivity was somewhat curbed by involuntary eavesdropping on people having conversations or eating too noisily all around me.
I was also somewhat surprised to find that despite no longer having a day job to eat into my writing time, there was suddenly rather a lot of other distractions rearing their ugly heads. Who knew how all-consuming my urges to clean the bathroom and do the ironing would become until faced with the choice of doing that or trying to force myself to be creative?
This lack of productivity naturally had a knock-on effect when it came to getting published. The inability to actually finish anything proving a rather severe obstacle, and of course, even the politest and timidest inquiry from my nearest and dearest about my work was met with at best, ingenious deflection – have you SEEN how clean the bathroom is?’ and at worst, grave hostility – ‘I don’t remember YOU writing any books lately!’
The sacrifices writers have to make to be successful are plentiful and drastic. Long gone are the days where being a successful writer meant you just had to be good at writing. Now writers must wear many hats and perform many dances if they are to fulfil all the requirements of the job description.
To become successful, writing sacrifices must be made!
Writer’s have to find time to write. It’s as simple as that, and time is precious, and it’s essential to make the most of it. Procrastination can be an issue for many writers and if you feel as though you aren’t using your time as productively as you could, try to adjust your schedule and experiment with what works for you.
You might find you cannot write without your house being tidy – that’s fine, but make sure the tidying happens the night before or get up a bit earlier to get it done so it doesn’t eat into your writing day. You might find you are much more productive in the evenings with a glass of wine to loosen those creative cockles in hand, in which case you need to manoeuvre things in your day so you are free to have this time to work.
Then there are those heroes that manage to write while holding down a day job at the same time – the sacrifice is felt even more intensely here. Whether it’s getting up an hour earlier, writing during your commute or your lunch break, if you know that writing is your passion, finding time to do it – and not letting anything else get in the way – is the most important thing you can do.
Your scrawny children look up at you with unblinking eyes as you serve hastily cooked fish and chips for the fourth evening in a row. Don’t try to kid yourself, they are judging you. Your partner suggests a romantic evening in and is met yet again with your unwavering mirth. Your friends start creating WhatsApp groups without you and slowly but surely, everyone you’ve ever loved disap…
OK, so it doesn’t have to get this bad. However, the point is that if you want to be successful as a writer, there are going to be times where, as tempting as it is to head down to the pub quiz with your friends, you’ll instead stay in because you’re at a turning point in your book. Or they’ll be evenings where you miss the kid’s bedtime because you are so in the writing zone even their dreamy little faces can’t snap you out of it. Or perhaps you’ll get an earful from your partner from time to time because they feel a bit like you’re having multiple affairs with your characters -but that’s a sacrifice you have to make.
It can be tough to think that your relationships are suffering because of your writing, and the key is to find a balance. It’s OK for there to be times when you can’t as good a friend/parent/partner as you want to be, just don’t let the frequency change from ‘occasionally’, to ‘most of the time.’
Being a successful writer isn’t something that will just fall into your lap, at least not for 99.9% of writers anyway. Just because you have written something doesn’t mean that people should read it, particularly if you are thinking of charging them money for the privilege. In this busy modern world, people are inundated with choice, and you have to work tirelessly to get them to choose you. Always think about what your reader wants, and continue to have them at the forefront of your mind as you write. As soon as you can get into the mindset that it’s all about them and that it’s all for them, the faster you’ll journey down the path to success.
You’ve also got to deal with rejections, unhappy editors, changing deadlines and the fact that most of your family and friends have got their own stuff going on and can’t be there to give you compliments and tell you how great and talented you are every single second of the day. You’ve got to accept that the one thing all successful writers have in common is that they never gave up – so keep knocking on that door, and eventually, someone will hear you!
Let go of your romantic ideals
Writing is cathartic and creative, and it can feel fantastic to be doing something you love, to be following your dreams. There is nothing wrong with indulging in that, but at the same time, writers should try to keep both feet firmly on the ground, even if their heads do pop into the clouds from time to time, and remember that writing sacrifices must be made to give yourself the best chance of success.
Remember readers want to read something compelling, moving and entertaining. Does your book deliver? You can write any book you want and if it’s crucial for you to stay true to your creative integrity that’s fine, but be realistic in your expectations of how broad an audience you can reach. If you are looking for mass appeal and great success you need to write for an audience that you know is out there, ready and waiting and hungry for more.
Remember, no one is going to discover your writing through the power of thought, nor are masses of interested readers going to ‘stumble’ upon your novel because the universe is just that kind. However, that doesn’t mean that success is not yours for the taking. So get out there, make the necessary sacrifices, and it will all be worth it in the end.