Nobody told me when I started this whole pursuit, just how hard the journey was going to be.
The worse thing about being new to any job is that you don’t know where anything lives. You spend most of your first week, looking through cupboards and bothering your colleagues with questions like, “where do I find…?” and “where does this go?” Your colleagues tend to have the good grace to help you out, because they know that you are new and it’s only a temporary phase, while you establish yourself into the firm. However, becoming a new writer is totally different. You are self-employed, so there isn’t anyone to ask. You have a thousand questions, but no one is going to line up with the answers, so you have to find the answers to them yourself.
Writing can be very lonely at times. You spend a great deal of your time on your own, in your office space, just writing or blogging. Your work can take so much of your time and energy that after a productive writing session, it isn’t unheard of, to look at the clock and realise that there isn’t anyone to socialise with anyway, because it’s too late and almost time for dinner, or your friend’s/family’s lunch break is over, or even it’s time for bed. The combination of all of these factors can lead to a tremendous amount of lows, which you have to manage yourself. There isn’t anyone going to blow a dinner bell whistle, nor call clocking out time, if you miss a break and work through, there is no one there to acknowledge it and serve you with praise. It’s simply you and your writing, however, as negative as all that sounds, and it has to be said, because it is a reality of the business. When you finally reach a writing goal however, you could walk on the clouds and dance in the heavens. The highs are always so much higher than the lows could ever be. So, like an addiction, we keep writing, looking for our next pinnacle to lift us up into the clouds.
I have spoken with many people about the fact that I am an author. It’s funny how varied the reactions can be. I have spoken to people who have ignored the whole subject and changed the topic immediately. Some people have been in awe of what I do, which is lovely and a nice lift for my ego, but I can’t help thinking that I am just as ordinary as the next person. Other people come at me from a different angle. They have often bought into the chocolate box imagery associated with the comedy sketches of years gone by, where comedians would portray well known writers eating chocolates while having an overworked typist in the corner, typing away at some break neck speed, to keep up with the author’s dictation, while the author lays on a couch eating chocolates. Apparently, that’s what I do. On these occasions, I have to admit to thinking to myself, “I wish. If only…” These people are not aware of the all-nighters that I pull to get a chapter or a storyline finished, or the fact that I could have spent a couple of weeks just building a website, to get my brand out into the wider community. Speaking of which… Nobody told me when I started this whole pursuit, just how hard the journey was going to be.
When I originally started this whole writing malarkey, I had no idea that my writing journey was going to take me to the places that it has, or be so complicated. Originally, when I was ignorant to the journey, I thought I would just write a book, place it in an envelope and pop it in the post and the rest would be history. A contract would land on my carpet from a publisher and in would roll loads of money, making the whole thing worthwhile. I would be compensated for all the hours of hard work done after I finished my day, at my full time job, which was out of town, for working late into the night and giving up all my evenings, weekends and holidays, to get my manuscript finished. Yes, that’s more of that stereotyping, working its way into my ignorance. It is right that I do work all my evenings, weekends and holidays. I miss nights out, relaxation, just picking a book up for a relaxing read is a thing of the past, and if I do have to attend events, then I have to fit them in.
My daughter has a new question she asks of her dad, but within ear shot of me, to make a point and that is, “has mum made a nest again?” This is because ever since she has been at university, I have been writing seriously, with the intention of making it my full time career, and all she has seen is me writing in the back of the car, while en-route to picking her up, or dropping her off. I have to admit that when I stand back and take an outsider’s view of what I do, it does sort of look like a nest. I’ll often be sat in the back of our beaten up, old, failing car, with my laptop, and my little exercise book, pen and torch for when the battery dies on my laptop and I can’t write on it any longer. I also have a good book to read, to go with my torch for when I end up over tired and inspiration leaves me, or I just need to chill a little, so yes, I can see where she is coming from. It’s like anything else though, if you want to be a success, you have to work really hard at it. This is how my parents brought me up and so far, it has proved to be the right advice.
The journey has been much harder though, than I ever anticipated. I did everything in the book to the best of my ability. I followed every piece of advice that made sense to me. I bought a copy of the Writers’ & Artists’ Year Book and worked my way through that, sending my manuscript off to all the publishers in the UK, who published my genre. I spent a fortune on postage, envelopes and printing, only to have ALL of them returned to me. I had followed the rules and looked for whether each company was accepting submissions, I’d looked at their submission guidelines and written a synopsis and covering letter attune to what they were each individually asking for. I tried to get an agent, but couldn’t, I emailed my manuscript, where that was their criteria and spent the majority of 2012 and 2013 been rejected by every company. The returns were very polite, wishing me luck in my venture, but politely telling me that because I didn’t have an agent, they wouldn’t even read my manuscript. This business is tough.
You have to have a very thick skin to be part of this business, or decide to self-publish and take your chances. The problem with that is that every man and his dog are all doing the same thing. It would seem that since the recession made unemployment nearer the norm than employment, everyone has turned to writing that novel they’ve been putting off, and looking for a new way forward. This means that getting a novel out there is going to be almost impossible, if you don’t know how to promote it. So I go back to my original statement – Nobody told me when I started this whole pursuit, just how hard the journey was going to be.
Nobody said to me, when I sat at the bottom of my garden, with my rose-tinted glasses on, do you know that when you’ve finished writing your book, you are going to have to go off shore, over to America, to get published, because your own community won’t even read it. They didn’t tell me about the loneliness of writing, they didn’t share the fact that I would have to learn to write to a standard that was high enough to be accepted by my publisher. No body relayed the fact that I would have to build a website and join numerous writing communities, just to stay afloat, but do you know what? It’s all worth it! Every last up and down. Every high, every low, because I wrote something that I could share with the world. Something that has the potential to outlast me, if I can get it off the ground, and there are not many people who can say that.
Writing has been the most incredible journey of my life after motherhood. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been my saviour. It has shown me that I can do far more than I ever thought I was able to. I have gained so many skills over the last three and a half years that I sometimes I have to sit myself down and remind myself that it is me doing it. You see the advantage of being self-employed and not having anyone to ask about anything, is that it serves as a catalyst for finding things out yourself and that always leads to you learning far more than if someone just spoon-feeds you the answers.
Would I recommend becoming a writer? Yes and no. The answer lies deep inside the individual asking the question. It’s not as easy as it looks. I would say that it is far more difficult than the full time job, I currently make my living at, and I don’t have an easy job. Only the person asking the question can decide whether they are tough enough to take on the industry and tough it out, just to get a foot on the ladder, with no guarantees or promises. To face rejection from the industry and critique from non-writer, who can destroy your writing career as look at you. If you’re not up to this, then my answer would be – no. Don’t pick up your pen. However, if you are still not fazed by this and the writing is erupting out of you, regardless then it’s time to take up the challenge and enjoy the ride of your life.
Serina Hartwell – Author of The Hidden Saga
Thank you for taking the time out to read my blog. Don’t forget to follow me and tell a friend. Why not leave me your thoughts or a good review? I have a new website available at – http://www.serinahartwell.com