There is the famous Chinese curse – may your dreams come true. I wouldn’t go so far as to completely agree with the claim that getting what we want can be a bad thing, but I can see there is an element of truth in it. Achieving dreams does come with a price; I guess this is why most people will give up on them.
The price I Pay to Be a Writer
I’ve wanted to be a writer from the time I knew such a job existed. The idea of getting paid to do something that I did anyway sounded ideal. I’ve met a few full-time writers over the years and envied the glamour of their profession. They would tell me about their fight to get published, but the idea of the struggling artist appealed to me. My views of the writing life were so naive, but I suppose it kept me hungry and motivated enough to keep pushing towards my dream. Then a couple of years ago my dreams became my reality.
In a previous post I discussed how I feel so lucky to have made it this far as a writer. I’m being modest here because I’ve flipping earned it. People have helped me along the way, but most of this luck I’ve made myself. Since turning full-time a couple of years ago I’ve put everything into this career. I work fourteen hours a day, six days a week, and usually a few hours on my day off as too. Each day I write seven or eight thousands words; that’s almost the equivalent of one book a week. Even when I’m away from the computer there are writing ideas ticking away in my brain.
The price I pay to be a writer isn’t just about time and effort. Spending so much of my life starting at a computer screen is damaging my body. I move from one health problem to the next; one week it’s my knees, the next it’s my wrists – in fact every part of my body seems to be suffering because of my profession. My eyesight is deteriorating at a scary space; two years ago I didn’t need glasses but now that original lens prescription is no longer sufficient. This is all so far away from the glamour that I imagined the life of the writer to be.
I’m losing out on a lot because of my work. Most of the time my son is only a few metres away from me but I’m missing out on him growing up because I’m too focused on my work. Other than my Muay Thai lessons I’ve no social life. Writing is a lonely business – or at least it is for me anyway. I’ve always been a bit of a loner, but I thought that becoming a full-time writer would change this – the opposite is true if anything.
I’ve had to face so many fears as a writer. One thing that I’ve always struggled with is criticism but now dealing with it is a part of my job. While growing up I found it hard to get people who knew me to like me, but now I have to convince complete strangers to at least like me enough to read what I’ve got to say. I’ve worked hard to overcome my natural tendency to wallow in self-pity in response to criticism – developing a thick skin has been a struggle but I’ve managed it to a certain degree.
My decision to become a full-time writer has brought rewards as well as hardship. I’m improving as a writer, but this is hardly surprising considering I devote so much time to it. Don’t get wrong, I can still write crap, but I do know how to write well. I can see how much I’ve improved as a writer over the last couple of years and that is satisfying. I’m no James Joyce, but flowery prose doesn’t appeal to me anyway. I’ve become the type of writer that I always wanted to be.
One of the nicest rewards of writing is when I get a positive comment on my website or an email from somebody who has read my book. I do get days when I’m full of doubt; these messages can turn my day around. I don’t think readers understand how important this type of comment can be. I have no boss to tell me if I’m doing a good job and so somebody making a nice comment about my writing can be so welcome.
The biggest reward is that I get up every morning to do a job that I still love. When my book Dead Drunk was released last year I worried that there wouldn’t be another; maybe I only had one story that was of interest to publishers? I’ve now signed a contract for another book and this has given my career a much needed boost.
I’m not after much in life. I just don’t want to have to work fourteen hours a day, six days a week forever just to stay afloat. I know that there is no real security in life but at least the illusion of financial security would be nice. I don’t care about things like awards and I don’t need to write a bestseller to feel like a winner. I just want to be able to work and get by. I’m not asking for the four hour workweek, but the fifty hour workweek would be nice.
I hold back on writing posts like this one because I don’t want to be viewed as a complainer; there is a lot in my life to be grateful for. I do want to inspire people by showing them that it is possible to turn their life around just like I did. We can all achieve our dreams no matter how far in life we have fallen. There is s downside to all this though, and not mentioning it would be sort of dishonest. Yes we can achieve our dreams but there is always going to be a price to pay for this. Is the price worth the reward? You will have to ask me on my death bed – assuming of course that I’m still competus mentus.