Write it now part 5: what you’re in for as a writer

In this ongoing series on the A-Z of writing, we’ve been looking so far at what writing is, what it involves, and the scope of what there is to learn.

For those who seriously want to do it, writing is also a lifetime committment. So what are you in for? Plus side – the rewards are huge. Writers who make a career of their passion write for the joy of it, and the journey can lead to surprising places. Check out the photo, for instance. That’s me, doing my ‘journalist’ thing. Did I ever think I’d do a ‘Tom Clancy’? Of course not.

But it’s also a hard road.

First off, don’t think it will make you rich.

Journalist on a submarine hunt, Exercise Fincastle, 1994.
Where can writing lead? Cool places, that’s where. This is me behind the tac rail of an RNZAF P-3K Orion, hunting submarines during Exercise Fincastle, 1994.

The world’s richest writers are mostly novelists. But for every Dan Brown equivalent, lounging with an ice-cold pina colada in the comfort of their Cessna Citation X as they descend into Majorca for another sun-drenched sojourn at their beach mansion, there are a thousand writers in grinding poverty. Their books are good, their skills top notch – but sales don’t provide a living. The method of publication makes no difference.

That’s also true of other writing – non-fiction, journalism, and so forth. Want to make a living freelancing? Maybe you can. But not, for instance, in New Zealand. I know someone who tried. He did well by local standards – but that didn’t pay the grocery bills, and after about a year, he shelved his typewriter and got a job. One in his field – he didn’t quite end up working as the icing guy in a muffin factory. But you get the picture.

Second, be prepared to work. And work hard. Writing should be a pleasure. That’s why most of us do it. But the reality of assembling the right 100,000 words – of preparing the MS for publishing, of going through the editorial processes (trawling those 100,000 words many times, chasing proof-editors gaffes) – and then promoting it is a lot of work. You have to find ways of balancing the grind so it doesn’t kill the fun.

Third, it’s a solo profession. Sure, there are online communities filled with friendly, like-minded people who offer great support. Sure, there are symposia, conferences and all the other things that writers get involved with. And writing groups abound. But at the end of the day, writing always involves sitting down – alone – and doing it. For hours, weeks, months and years. Alone. Be prepared.

Finally –  it is an endless learning curve. Learning is where innovation comes from. It’s how you hold the audience.  There is always something to learn, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be learned ‘from’ somebody. After a while, experienced writers are good enough at their profession to make their own judgement calls over self-improvement.

Did I say ‘profession’? I did, didn’t I.

Any thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

Coming up: Next instalment of ‘Write it now’, more ‘Sixty second writing tips’. And posts on kindness. Watch this space.


8 thoughts on “Write it now part 5: what you’re in for as a writer

  1. Just wanted to say, again, Matthew, how much I am enjoying this series on writing. It’s practical, solid, and really reflects the writing world as I know it. Writing is hard work that is rewarding and requires constant practice (at least for me) but oh, when the words fall together….

    Even on the days when I may not be as enthusiastic about writing, the thought of not writing is a thud in the stomach. Sometimes, those days, and the even days I am tired, produce some surprising results. I really never come away from writing disappointed as something is always revealed.

    Really appreciate this fine series, Matthew.


    1. Thank you – very much appreciated. And I agree absolutely. There’s nothing quite like the moment when everything falls into place. Often, I find, without particularly being planned or even consciously thought about, which used to puzzle me, but of course the mind’s ticking away behind the scenes relentlessly. Often I’ll have a problem to solve, sleep on it – and get up in the morning and write down the problem passage without a second’s pause. It’s all good.

  2. Writing is one of those strange past-times where you can spend YEARS working on one project and then give up and let no-one ever read your work. The time we put into our work is astounding and yet we continue on. What’s the definition of madness? Writer is a good answer 🙂

  3. Matthew, I like how you put things into perspective. I never thought of writing as a profession but it is now that I do it all the time. I even write in my sleep and wake up to write down my thoughts. I have always wanted to become an author and see my books in print but now I want more. I want to be successful in this new profession. Encouraging children of all ages to read is the most important thing to me. Finding a publisher has been difficult. Any suggestions of publishers I should be soliciting for my children’s books. Thank you for your interesting writing. I have gained a lot of insight.

    1. Thank you. There’s a huge entry bar just now to main-stream publishing – and even the agents who can access the bigger houses – not helped by the fact that even the bigger publishers are dropping many of their middle-list authors as the industry’s turned on its head by recession and the advent of e-books. But definitely try starting with an agent first – itself a difficult task.Good luck!

Comments are closed.