Misconceptions of #writerslife

People have funny ideas about what it means to be a writer. Here are some common ones I’ve heard from fellow authors, publishers, editors, and professionals in the field.

1) You must be rich if you published a book

The chance to make money and become ‘rich’ on a book is 1 in a million. It’s no different than any creative art or business venture. A few make it big, some can manage a semblance of living wage, many are starving for their calling.

2) Publishing is a get rich quick scheme

Oh boy is this a delusion. I blame the popular media lens where the one in a million get held up in celebrity culture and normalized as rich and famous. It all looks so easy, so desirable, so flawless, so very very fake.

Writers put countless hours into their work and promoting it, even if conventionally published. Also, publishers (self or conventional/traditional) make almost nothing on the published product.

3) You do nothing all day but write about day dreams (Fiction Authors)

Okay, this one isn’t that far from the truth, but, let’s look at the complete truth of the matter.

Ever heard of a man named Tolkein? He created his own languages with grammar rules, pronunciations, and slang. So did Sci-Fi author Gene Roddenberry. Ever seen a specs manual of one of the famous Enterprise ships or alien ships? SO. MUCH. WORK. With a lot of structure, science, and academics behind them. Authors spend countless hours preparing before writing the book. Mapping out complex social systems and structures, hundreds of character sketches, and outlining are just some of the work authors can put into a book. They do this to make it believable, enriching, and immersive for you, the reader.

For those of us that don’t character sketch or map or graph or whiteboard everything — “Discovery Authors”— we can sometimes end up rewriting dozens of times or more. And I’m not talking about the standard four or so revisions a completed manuscript goes through. This is rewriting by deleting tens or hundreds of thousands of words, and spending long hours every day writing again and again and again. Just to get it right.

4) Your work is done after you write the book

All a first draft has to do is exist – Jane Smith.

After that first draft? Edits. Revisions. Marketability. Publishing. Cover artists and designers. Formatters. ISBNs. CIP data. ONIX data. Meta data. Laws and copyrights. Beta Readers. Revisions. Edits. Printing. Distribution. Sales. Marketing. Availability. Author Events. Book Events. More Events. Advertising. Marketing. Bleeding. Crying. Hair pulling. Networking. Blog posting. Social Media. Driving around selling books from the trunk of your car. Explaining over and over what your book is about. Agents. Websites and content. News releases. Interviews. Business. Accounting. Numbers. Contracts. Contractors. Sub-Contractors. Bills. Business laws. Your first born. Taxes…

Should I go on?

5) Publishing with a conventional publisher means I hand them my manuscript and they take care of things

Again, I blame the media/celebrity culture. Publishing has been significantly impacted by the economic concerns of the modern world. They don’t have teams of editors to spend hours on your manuscript. They often hire contractors. They don’t know your book as well as you do. They know the market. And they know how to edit, expect revisions. Oh, and marketing your book? That’s mostly up to you, dear writer. Yep, even if you’re conventionally published. There are no freebies, you’ll be pulling from your own pocket and working your behind off. That advance, you often have to pay it back.

6) It’s not a real job

If you took that arts or humanities degree or that degree someone didn’t understand and got the “what on earth will you do with that education?”. It doesn’t stop when you turn it into a profession they don’t understand. Don’t believe it’s a real job? Can you do 16 hour days every day of your life to make four dollars a year? Sorry… I’m ranting a bit. But seriously. It’s a real job. It’s a really difficult job. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying. Don’t believe me? As a few freelancers or authors or communications professionals, see what they say.

7) “I can’t do it” and other self-doubt lines

It’s work. It’s a hell of a lot of work. But you can. Believe me. You can do it. What does it take? Walk away from those doubtful words. Focus. Finish a manuscript. Then another. Learning. Dedication. Laughing at yourself. Forgiving yourself. Not comparing yourself to others. Hard work. But, if you want to do it enough, or, if like me you can’t stop doing it because you might suffocate to death and drown in untold stories, then you’ll do it.

Conquer Your Writing Stress

Nine ways to conquer your writing stress from thesis to novel to essay and everything in between. Come to think of it, these nine things apply to just about all types of stress…

1. Retrain Your Brain

 

You obsess about not writing and are riddled with guilt because you should be writing.

via GIPHY

Stop it. Silence those unhealthy, intrusive thoughts. If you are obsessing about ‘shoulds,’ you won’t be able to write when you actually sit down to do it. You burn out your brain and body by expending energy worrying instead of actually writing. Focus on Whatever You are Doing Right Now. Breathe. Count to Three. Focus on what you are doing right now. Are you sitting still? What is around you? Walking? What do you hear? Staring at a computer screen? What do the keyboard and mouse feel like beneath your hands? When you are done, do the same for whatever comes next. Stop wasting time on ‘shoulds’. Live in right now. You will write. You will finish the project. It’s more important that you be mindful. If you are having trouble breaking the obsession cycle, reach out to a professional therapist or doctor in your community. Workplaces, universities and schools, health programs and clinics often have free or low-cost resources.

 

2. Create a Schedule and Stick to It

 

Writing is a project: Conception – Composition – Completion. You have deadlines. Set milestones and reachable goals. One day you may dedicate six hours to researching and the next two hours to outlining. You may do a lot of prep work. You might not actually write anything for a while, but it’s still writing work. Don’t know where to start? Try AuthorMedia.comMake your schedule achievable. We all want to finish and move on to what is next. It’s human nature. It’s natural. Don’t fight it, it’s part of the driving force behind your creativity and creation, but DO set it aside.

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DON’T allot 10-16 hours to work. You will turn into an exhausted, angry, caffeine fueled ball of chaos with anxiety so tangible you will pixelate before your friends’ very eyes. A human mind can only focus for so long (anywhere from 8 seconds to 20 minutes according to various sources). The body can only be in one position for so long. You will do your best work in shorter, focused bursts when you are rested and healthy.

 

3. Take Breaks

 

You know the negative effects of sitting too long. You start to shift after 20 minutes. You perch on the edge of your chair, unaware of or ignoring your need to get up. Move.

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You are torturing your body. You are working against yourself. Move. Not only will your body thank you, your mind will to. And, your project will get done faster. Author James Patterson takes breaks during his writing routine. Put these in your schedule and stick to them. Take them when you need, but remember, this is work. Keep your breaks under control. They are not an excuse to procrastinate.

 

4. This is Work

 

Treat writing like work. A thesis, a novel, a short story, a poem, a blog, they are all work. They require research, time, and effort. Make and keep a schedule, set goals within reasonable time frames, and reward your successes. Stop making excuses, stop torturing yourself. Stop avoiding and stop overworking. Be present and be focused. Act like this is a professional task. Get the resources and materials you need. Consult experts. Operate with professionalism. Do your job.

 

5. Have a Sacred Space

 

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Dedicate a box, a table space, a library or café, or an office to your writing. You don’t have to have an entire room, but a room or space designated solely for writing will make you more productive and help your focus. Appreciate the space you choose, settle in, and blaze ahead. Lock the door to your mind and ignore distractions.  Find inspiration from Writing Spaces: Where 9 Famous Creatives Do Their Best Work. The work you are doing is important. Treat it so.

 

6. Exercise

 

Creativity and focus are yours when you are healthy. Exercise is a need. Stop avoiding it. You want to do it. Your body sends signals of stress through muscle tension, stiffness, feeling cold, nausea, headaches, blurred vision and itchy eyes. Fidgeting? When was the last time you went for a walk, to the gym, or ran through yoga or martial art poses? An exercised body is an exercised mind. Sitting for extended period of time can restrict circulation, causing lapses in memory and cognition. Get up and go.

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7. Eat Properly

 

You want that comfort food. You need that comfort food. You crave it. You might even rage until you get it. Having a complete meal feeds your brain and body – your most important writing tools. Skipping meals or grabbing quick fixes increases your costs and adds empty calories, which drives you to eat more. They also deprive you of the nutrients you need to keep your work flowing. Invest in yourself. You are the only way this project of yours is getting done. That novel won’t write itself. That brain and body won’t write without food.

8. Get a Life

Take care of all of your needs. Your brain is built to do more than one thing. So is your body. Dedicate your time and energy to other areas of your life and watch your creativity spark and stamina grow. Walk away from that computer and socialize. Take a shower or a bubble bath. Take care of those other to-dos. Go on a mini-vacation, or even a real vacation. Get enough sleep. Most importantly, have fun. And lots of it. It can help inform your writing. It’s the best way to overcome that writer’s block. There are a number of models in psychology regarding the dimensions of wellness/well-being. Check out eight of them here: http://campusrec.eku.edu/eight-dimensions-wellness

 

9. Reward Yourself

 

You are working hard. Compensate yourself for it. Spend time in your favorite place, go out to your favorite restaurant with friends. Go on a date (with yourself, significant other, a friend). Read a book for pleasure. Do nothing for a bit. Reward that hard work and dedication. You deserve it.

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Life and Work Wellness for Authors: Five tips to help manage

Juggling multiple jobs, family life, and additional responsibilities (school, charity, elder-care, etc) on top of being self-employed as an author, editor, and consultant means a regular balancing act. I am no expert, but I have achieved a working peace with the Work-Life balance I have in my life now. The thing is, it keeps changing on me.

Many of us have long days that end in being overwhelmed. A typical day in the life of the average indie author may include: kids (sleep schedules, extracurricular activities, daycare, homework, health care, education, recreation, feeding, clothing, cleaning), parents and extended family (care for the elderly, errands, family get-togethers), ourselves (exercise, eating, sleep schedules, recreation), our partners (coordinating schedules, building relationships, quality time, emotional and psychological support), piled on to that are education, friends, errands, volunteering, repairing and maintaining dwellings, finances, pets, commuting, vehicle maintenance, work (deadlines, changes, restrictions, conflict, networking), self-publishing, writing, editing, working as our own publicist and accountant and not to mention the hundreds of passwords, pins, names, faces, emails, tasks, dates, events we need to remember. We feel at a loss as time passes us by.

Declutter. Our lives are filled with clutter that throw off our author work-life balance: thoughts, noise, stuff, schedules as full as possible in fear of missing out on something. Declutter your work space, declutter your home, your mind, heart and spirit. Let go of anything that is not serving you, anything that collects dust in the corners, that creates unnecessary work or that you are not willing to dedicate your time to. Check out Becoming Minimalist’s Blog for 10 Creative Ways to Declutter.

Set reasonable boundaries for your time. In the words of a wise comedian Bob Newhart, STOP it! Take a deep breath, exhale. Focus on what you are doing right now. Stop worrying about what is to come. Be aware of what you are looking at, doing, and saying fully, mindfully. In a world of multitasking mayhem, the art of focusing and finishing one thing at a time has been lost. Stop working through breaks and lunches, or skipping meals. If you are on a phone call, focus completely on that phone call. Slow down and become immersed in what you are experiencing right now. Set clear boundaries and don’t compromise yourself or your time for anything that isn’t a priority. Oprah offers great guidance about beginning to set personal boundaries. A lack of reasonable boundaries around your time is a sure-fire way to undermine work-life balance and increase your stress. It can be especially difficult for self-published authors who wear a dozen or more hats to get the job done, but trust me when I say your creativity and writing will thank you.

Plan and Prioritize. Take your days one at a time, but plan ahead. This may sound contradictory, and it is in a way. It’s a difficult practice. Plan and prioritize a strict sleep schedule, more time in the morning or evening for yourself, and quality time for your family and you. Plan meals in advance, this also helps save money and time on groceries. Plan and prioritize going outdoors and exercise. Prioritize and plan fun. But be open and flexible to changes. Stick to what is important and necessary at work, and at home. Mike Robbins offers 3 Ways to Re-Prioritize Your Life. Stuck on prioritizing at work when everything seems to be important? LiquidPlanner has a solution for you.

Learn to say NO without feeling guilty. To truly declutter our lives, we must learn to say no gently, but firmly. We can only handle so much in life. Is it healthy? Is the stress it brings manageable? Is it enjoyable? If it isn’t absolutely and truly necessary or important just say no. Don’t know how? Start with 11 steps from Wiki-How. Saying yes to too many things both at work and home is one of the biggest reasons people become off-balance.

Acceptance. Accept and respect that you have limits. Accept that there are things that you cannot change, that you cannot control (especially other people). Balance is a practice whether you are at work or home, accept that you will never achieve perfect balance. Adjust your focus, effort, and time that as your boundaries and priorities change and don’t feel guilt over it. Working yourself to exhaustion will lead to worse consequences down the road; not to mention, it will deprive your creative brain of the space it needs. GoodLifeCoaching Blog – Living the Creative Life offers a great article about accepting your limitations.

What’s so Hard about Writing Anyway?

Writing is not an easy task. Especially for those of us writers with such an intense calling to the profession that to deny its call means physical discomfort, emotional turmoil, and psychological strain. You think raw talent, storytelling, and the imaginings inside your head are enough to make you a successful writer? Think again.

Let us start with the basics. The foundation of any writing endeavor is the language in which it is written. Language holds very technical components that are not always easy to navigate, from syntax and grammar, to rhythm and flow, to word choice or meaning, to placement and sound. Those terms you learned (or were supposed to learn) in school like plot, antagonist, protagonist, denouement, and tense are critical to a successful story. If you don’t have a grasp of your language’s structures and tools, you won’t be able to learn to manipulate them to create meaning, capture audiences, or take artistic licence. Which brings us to the second must-have for any aspiring writer: Creativity.


The majority of humans imagine from an early age. Children imagine invisible friends and invent stories. Imagination is part of the human condition and it is good for the development and conditioning of the mind. But creativity is so much more than imagination. Creativity is what grasps the seed of imagination and cares for it, shapes it, and guides it to grow into something more. Creativity is a process of careful consideration, discipline, and the utilization of tools developed over time. It is the artist’s goals and community coming together to solidify, communicate, and unify ideas and emotions.

Where creativity is the process which hones the spark of imagination, drive is what ensures you actually start and finish what you set out to do. Without drive or will power, you can’t overcome those lonely moments where self-doubt creeps in and you are tempted to destroy the work you’ve done or just give up. Writing requires commitment and something deeper than just creativity to keep you going in the darkness. Often this will be a message that must be shared, a calling, or a curiosity to see it through.

Perhaps the most important aspect of writing is the company a writer keeps. Community – those you surround yourself with before, during, and after the writing process – is what ensures the success of your writing. The people who support and encourage you, who offer honest feedback, who inspire and guide your work, will be the people that ensure the success of anything you write. Without community, your writing is never as good as it could be. Errors are missed that affect your story’s message and appeal. Your work never reaches its audience. Without a strong community, your work will could be limited to the confines of your own imagination.

And those are only the basics. Then you have to develop and refine these basics through years of study, practice, and mistakes before you reach success. Writing includes character construction, exposition, setting, and structure. It includes learning how to engage with your audience, how to market and sell your work and your skills as a writer. It includes using your own experiences to inform your writing. It requires research, revisions, and determining how you measure success. It requires self-awareness and a willingness to learn. It includes an understanding the publishing industry and knowing the rights, regulations, and risks of a writer in your country. Writing is hundreds of hours of review, revision, and rewriting.

In professional writing there are no quick wins or easy paths to success. There is an unending supply of trial and error. It isn’t an anybody-can-do-it profession, contrary to what the cheap e-books or blogs or online magazines would have you believe. A successful career as a writer is difficult; it is work. It can also be a great deal of fun, but only if you are willing to put in the effort required to succeed. Yes, it is possible. Yes, it is absolutely amazing to be able to create stories out of your imagination. No, it is not easy to be a writer. But if you believe the work is worth it, it can be a very rewarding profession.