There are a lot of difficult parts to writing. I mean, besides the whole write-edit-revise-rewrite thing. That cutting a vein and bleeding on the page can get touch-and-go at times. Channeling your muse at times gets someone you’d prefer to avoid. And it’s well documented that trying to make a living as an author is pretty near impossible unless your last name rhymes with ‘Fancy’ or ‘Brawling’.
Despite all that, it’s a profession people flock to, spend thousands training to be, and wouldn’t give up for anything. Widely-accepted studies show 80% of Americans have a book we want to share–despite the fact that industry stats show it takes five years to hone and deliver an acceptable novel. It may–or may not–surprise you to know that pursuing a writing career has less to do with that magical feeling you get from turning words into pictures and more to do with what writers get to do that no one else gets to do. Here are eight things we can do that no one else gets to do:
Create new words
We can–and are expected to–create words to fit a situation. Did you think only politicians, speechwriters, and Merriam Webster could do that? Writers are the original neologists. We get to turn nouns into verbs and the reverse (called ‘nounizing’ and ‘verbizing’). True, with our excellent command of vocabulary, we usually come up with the perfect word, but when we don’t, we create it. The Global Language Monitor reports that a new word is created every 98 minutes. No one will notice if you slip one in. Just the other day, I added the verb ‘Snowdened’ to the lexicon.
Stare at people with impunity
As a writer, people watching is studying our craft. We need to know exactly how everyday individuals react to common occurrences, so we watch them eating, reprimanding their children, walking their dogs, talking to the postman, fighting with mates–everything. When doing this, hang a sign around your neck ‘Writer at work’ so everyone understands you aren’t staring, you’re developing your craft.
Be quirky and call it cute
Have you noticed writers often are quirky dressers? In fact, if you see someone dressed like they’re going to play golf, but they aren’t, they may be a writer. We wear hats, bright colors, hair that’s too long for our age, lipstick that’s too loud for our age. Men can hang out with a roomful of women if they’re a writer and no one thinks it’s a pick-up line. With writers, quirky is cute.
Choose reading over anything else
The Huffington Post reported that 28% of Americans have not read a book all year. That’s amazing, considering as a writer, it’s part of our skill set. So why don’t people read? As an adult, reading is considered a leisure-time activity. Adults talk about reading as though it’s that finish line of a day they never get to. It’s something they strive for and rarely reach. My reward is to read. I’m going on vacation and planning to read.
Not writers. For us, reading is part of the job. We have to keep up with what others are doing, learn new words, recognize the consequences of flaws, research a topic we are writing about. While others are forced to drink, boy-watch, girl-watch, attend work-related events, we must read. If you love reading, this might be a reason you pick being a writer over, say, becoming a plumber or a politician.
Talk to people who are not there
We’re not talking to No One. We’re talking to our characters. They’re talking to us. We listen and respond. Sometimes, we fight with them, argue, cajole. Sometimes, we’re trying to find out why they did something or what-the-heck their plan is because we have no idea (it would be nice if they’d share it with their writer, but this is more complicated than it sounds).
Talking to individuals others can’t see is in the job description. Get used to it.
Be anyone we want to be
Not quite the same as ‘be all you can be’, but it’s a cousin to that. With a sweep of our pen, we create a whole new world, drop ourselves in as a brains-and-beauty heroine, save the world, or just save a puppy. Doesn’t matter. With words, we can be and do anything we want.
I love that.
This we do better than anyone has a right to do because we get a lot of practice. Writers finish on average a novel a year (although Russell Blake seems to write one a month, but then, he doesn’t have many rejections to contend with). So every year, we submit to agents who reject us. My goal is one hundred query letters per novel before moving to Plan B. That’s one hundred times I hear No, F*** no, Are you crazy No, Don’t call until I’m dead No, What were you thinking No.There are dozens of ways to say No and I know most of them.
By the time we reach three novels (the suggested number required before new authors can find agents), we can quickly recognize, categorize, and move on with a minimal amount of tears.
I’m sure there are more great reasons to become a writer. What would you add to this list?
More humor about writing:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.