A Writer’s Life: Slow Torture, Alcohol and Pain

I have wanted to be a writer since before I can remember. I used to carry around notepads and pencils so I could scribble a constant stream of ideas. I fell in love with the characters that I created and truly believed in the world they lived in. I believed in the world that we live in, a world so rich and full of life that being a writer was the only profession that made sense to me. I believed in love and light and truth, and I believed that I would never – could never – stop writing.

But then I grew up, and I realized that being a writer is dark and difficult.

It’s downright painful. Writing hurts. Crafting the perfect sentence, bringing characters to life, filing a world with detail and coloring it with your five senses – it’s not the doing that hurts, but the not doing. It’s the realization that you’ll throw away a million drafts before you’re satisfied with one. And, even then, the word “satisfied” is relative.

Perfection is unobtainable. We know this. We’ve been taught this our entire lives. But, for the writer, perfection is the ultimate goal. We want every sentence to be perfect, every theme to have poetic justice, every novel to become the next American Great. The reason we write a million drafts is because the words never seem quite right on the page – and, to be honest, I don’t know that they ever will.

We’re all depressed. Oh, and alcoholics. But all the greats were, right?

It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, though. You’re all picturing Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge, right? Something similar, at least. A writer is unshaven, unkempt, cigarette hanging loosely from his mouth, whiskey in his hand as he stretches his hands over a typewriter. I hate to burst your bubble (and my own, to be honest), but being a writer isn’t the romanticized vision we get when we picture Hemingway. It’s about staring at that damn cursor as it blinks against the electronic page, mocking you and your writer’s block.

Which, by the way, is a constant state of being. Sadly, writer’s block doesn’t just go away after an hour. I swear, I’ve had writer’s block for approximately five years. The inane amount of pressure that writers put on themselves is never-ending; it creates a cycle of self-doubt and loathing that will follow writers forever. (If you’re an aspiring writer and haven’t discovered the cycle yet… Sorry about it.)

You’ll never be able to express it all. You just won’t. There will be some characters that will never come to life and some beautiful lines that will just sound different on paper than they did in your head. You’ll never be able to put everything down on paper; you won’t be able to find the words. You can watch the sun set, turning the sky a dusky orange color and washing over you like the tide, but you’ll never be able to capture the feelings that go along with it.

It will never be a lucrative career choice. Unfortunately, most writers aren’t going to hit it big with the next vampire love story (it made money, people). The nostalgic, heartbreaking, indie novel that you’ve spent the last seven years working on will probably only be read by about ten people outside of your inner circle. Thus, being a writer has always been and probably will always be close to number one on the list of “worst careers.” And you’ll always get that look when you tell people that you’re a writer.

Plain and simple, being a writer sucks. I wish that I could have been good at math or science or something practical but, apparently, numbers (of any kind… $$) were not in my future. But sometimes, in those rare moments when words that I’ve strung together sound exactly as perfect as I hoped, being a writer is the most wonderful, breathtaking, glamorous profession in the world.

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