Everyone always seems to have this fantastical ideal about a writer’s life: Lazy days in coffee shops, sitting behind a window writing furiously with a fountain pen as the rain pours down, quietly scribbling away under a tree in beautiful sunlit woodland and peace. Endless peace.
Try tapping frantically away at a keyboard at silly hours trying to fit in the next chapter before going to work to pay for the bills your novel-in-progress only dreams of, or snatching twenty minutes whilst your hyperactive toddler finally gives up and goes to sleep and before your partner comes home and expects dinner after their hard day at the grindstone.
Peace is a mere dream, found in brief moments which more often than not feels like something that happens to someone else. Like now for example. Here am I, sat on the sofa all bedraggled and listless whilst my 11 month old daughter wails pitifully at me from her travel cot all pale, sweaty and spotty with chicken pox. At 5.30 this morning I was out with her in the pushchair wandering aimlessly round town because it was the only thing that seemed to settle her. Now we’re at home, there’s nothing I can do for her aside from sit here beside her, tell her it’s okay and let her play with her favourite toy – my laptop mouse.
The atmosphere is far from peaceful and not particularly conducive to creative thought. But it’s all I’ve got so I’m working with it because, in truth, that’s how most writers HAVE to live. Unless you manage to write Harry Potter or some other gold-plated best-seller, nine times out of ten, you have to do something else to pay the bills in order to provide you with a roof and some materials to write on. Not to mention food and other luxuries for yourself and, if you have one, your family.
This is one of the many reasons I get grumpy when people tell me my desire to become a ‘proper’ writer is an ‘easy choice’. It’s not easy, anyone who tells you it is has clearly never tried or had someone else paying the bills for them whilst they produced their ‘baby’ of a book.
Someone I know holds my career choice in very low regard and throughout my Creative Writing BA kept hinting that I’d be better off giving up and going out and getting a real job, like an accountant or something. Their hints were about a subtle as a brick and I paid them no heed. It was very hard not to get bitchy at them but I resisted – they were only trying to help, as unwanted as their ‘help’ was. I say were, they still keep hinting that now I have a baby I should consider getting a ‘real’ job and give up on this writing lark. I’ve learned how to smile and nod, there’s just no telling some people.
My degree wasn’t easy either, just as an aside. It may not have been Astro-Physics or Aerospace Engineering but it was still challenging and involved critical thinking, creativeness, hard work and criticism. Lots of criticism. An important part of any writers’ life, if not the most pleasant.
Writers work hard and suffer for their craft, as clichéd as that sounds. Not just in the face of the critics, reviewers, editors and the ever judgemental general public, but also in their everyday lives where they work nine-to-five in the office, feed the kids and put them to bed, walk the dog and cook the meals all before they can even put pen to paper or fingers to keys.
Writing is not easy, but it’s worth every minute you put in. Even if you do end up cutting half your work out for silly wordcounts
This post was linked up to TheBoyAndMe’s ‘The One That Should Have Done Better’ ShowOff-ShowCase on 28.03.2011