Friday, July 24, 2015

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being A Writer Until It's Too Late


Hey guys! First off, I’d like to apologize for not posting last Friday. I had surgery to remove a tumor from my neck that week, and, being drugged up, in pain, and suffering from a larger-than-usual amount of cynicism, I thought it would be best for everyone involved if I took the week off. A pretty lame excuse, but there it is. I promise to make it up to you by bringing you some extra fun posts:
Pretty journals, peaceful writing sessions, crazed fans, coffee shops, tv interviews. Fun times. That’s what most people think about when they think about becoming a writer.

Hate to burst your bubble, but that’s actually not what being a writer looks like. Not even close.

Unfortunately, most people don’t see it that way. But we writers, whether we’re novelists or bloggers or journalists, we know better. Being a writer is a very tangled, messy ordeal. It’s not always fun. It’s never easy.

It can be a bit of a shock to get into writing only to realize that it’s nothing like how you imagined. So if you’re thinking about jumping into the writing world, or if you're already a writer and are wondering whether you’re crazy or not (you probably are, by the way), then here are a list of things you should know about being a writer:

1. Writing is painful. You have an outline? How cute. Bummer that there’s going to be at least one character who doesn’t follow the plot. Your writing station is all organized? Good luck keeping it that way. You think you can type all four of those chapters out in one sitting? 10 bucks says otherwise. I'm not trying to scare anybody, but writing is hard. And mentally and emotionally painful. To try and help get this point across, I have created an extremely accurate pie chart of the writing process. You're welcome: 



Does it always have to be like that? Absolutely not. It's important to recognize that writing is not all fun and games so that you can go into each project with a plan. Then you won't end up looking at cat pictures on twitter or raiding your pantry for potato chips.
2. Writing is not a social job. At all. A lot of people imagine interviews, getting to talk to fans, sitting around in book clubs, or talking to other writers about projects. Unfortunately, it’s mostly just you sitting behind a computer screen, staring at a blinking cursor, browsing the internet, and struggling to get the words to sit on paper in a pleasing way. Sorry. I guess you could use social media. Oh, wait. That’s mostly just you sitting behind a computer screen, too.
3. People will constantly misunderstand your writing…and spell your name wrong. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve gotten from people who appeared to have only read about a quarter of my post. Or how often I’ve had to explain to people that I was being sarcastic. It’s a sarcastic blog, people. Calm down. And I would venture to say that I am called ‘Hanna’ or ‘Heather’ about as often as I am called by my real name. I guess a lot of people are dyslexic, since combining ‘Hannah Heath’ actually does look a bit like ‘Heather.’ So I’ve decided that if I ever start using a pen name, I’ll call myself Heather. Maybe then people will actually get it right. Anyway, the point is this: nobody pays as much attention to your writing as you. Just be thankful that people are reading your stuff and don’t get discouraged when people constantly misread you. It will happen no matter what, so you might as well laugh about it. It’s actually pretty funny.
4. There is no ‘off’ switch to being a writer. You can’t just turn it on and off like tap. It gets to the point where you can’t do anything without thinking, “Oh, I can use this in my writing.” For example, I recently had surgery to remove a tumor from my neck. It was very unpleasant…and that’s putting it mildly. During recovery I passed out from the pain of having my bandage removed. One of my first thoughts upon coming to was, “Now I can write about it accurately!” I know. It’s a sickness. But it’s there and nothing you can do will stop it. So be prepared to have stories and character quirks and catch phrases flying through your head every waking moment of your life…and often times in your dreams, too. You can’t turn it off, so don’t even try. This one sounds a lot more annoying than it really is.
5. You’re going to start reading books like a writer. You’ll be thinking of how you could have done certain scenes better, or you’ll have to pause to scribble down particular sentences you thought were worded well. You’ll also end up analyzing character arcs and picking apart the reasons behind the popularity of certain books. Reading Like a Writer Syndrome does have many advantages, but it has one very unfortunate downside. You’ll be able to see most plot twists coming from miles away, because, well, you’ve written them before and know how to spot tell-tale signs. Your brain will become like that much despised person who always ruins books by telling you how it ends. Very uncool.
6. You’re search history is going to make you look like a psychopath. But that’s okay, as long as you don’t mind your search history being full of baby name websites, lists of poisonous plants, yoga breathing techniques, wiki articles on mythical creatures with wings, and questions about whether the earth would die if somebody blew up the moon (I'm pretty sure it would, by the way). At least that’s what mine looks like. This also applies to your Pinterest. 
7. There is no correct way to write, but there are a lot of incorrect ways. This one is confusing and it took me a while to figure it out. Writing is an odd profession because there is no set way to write a book or blog post, nor is there an incorrect style of writing. Obviously, this is not the case for many other studies, such as math. I hate math. 1 + 1 will always equal 2. How boring is that? But, because writing is such a fluid practice, many so called writers don’t take it seriously. While you can write in whatever way seems best to you, you’ll also have to learn when to use paragraph breaks and how to avoid creating flat characters. It’s hard to find a balance, but extremely necessary.
8. Your writing is always going to suck. At least it will look that way to you. You're always going to be chasing after becoming the 'perfect' writer, but you'll never make it because it's not really possible. There’s a reason many famous authors were/are alcoholics, drug addicts, or just downright insane. Is there a solution to this? Yes. Well, actually, no. Maybe? I don't know. I wrote a blog post about it here, if you want to check it out. I like to think that it's kind of helpful.
9. You can be normal or you can be a writer, but you can’t be both. Raise your hand if you are a writer and think that you're normal. If you raised your hand then Captain Jack Sparrow’s rule probably applies to you. If you didn't raise your hand, his rule also applies to you:
From what I’ve seen, writer’s view the world differently from other people. Much like Luna Lovegood and her flashy looking spectrespecs, not only can we see the world in a way very different from others, but it’s clear that that is what we do. We see endless possibilities to a single situation, get inspiration from the randomest moments, and feel things deeper than many others. Very few people will understand how your brain works...which is probably a good thing. No use in scaring people, right? Blending in will cease to be an option after a certain point. So if you don't want to be different, then don't become a writer. 
10. Non-writers are going to ask you stupid questions. For example: "So, when are you going to get published?" Oh, you know, I can get published anytime. I'm just holding off for now because I don't feel like it yet...."Ah. So, like, you're going to write the next Hunger Games series?" Yep. Because I'm not creative enough to come up with my own ideas. "I have this book idea....Maybe you and I can team up?" Over my dead body. Seriously, though, they don't mean any harm. Don't get irritated and don't take yourself so seriously. It can actually be kind of funny. And, sometimes, just sometimes, they say something helpful like, "You know nobody makes money by being a writer, right?" *sigh*

Those are my top 10 things that I wish I had known about being a writer. What about you? What's something you wish you'd known before starting out on your writing journey?

Related articles:
5 Steps to Fighting Off Writer's Insecurity (And Your Overactive Inner Critic) 
10 Way to Make Your Writing Time More Productive
15 Things I Love About Being A Writer

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34 comments:

  1. All 10 are so true... but it's #2 writing is not social, I wish I had known that one before diving in head first

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    1. Yeah, I got lucky with #2 because I'm not an extremely social person. But it does get very grating after a while. I have to make it a point to get outside and socialize, otherwise I go stir crazy. =)

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  2. OH MY GOODNESS HANNAH YOU ARE MY FAVORITE. Seriously, though. This post is amazing.

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    1. Haha! Thank you. I think you're pretty awesome, too. =)

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  3. I'm glad you're okay! Ugh, tumor surgeries SUCK! Especially when they give you the wrong pain meds.>:( LOL, anyway, this was awesome! You're my fave! :D <3

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    1. I know! They were giving me all these pain meds (that I did actually need) that had all these nasty side effects. I kept thinking about you and your surgery. =)

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  4. Nice list! All so true! Sorry to hear about the surgery by the way. I hope all is well!?

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    1. Thank you! My surgery went very well. I'm still recovering, but I'm much better. No nerve damage, they got all the tumor out, and it wasn't cancerous. Yay!

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  5. Sorry to hear you were under the weather and hope you are on the mend. Love your list. It's comprehensive and spot-on. I'd add that writing a book is only the tip of the iceberg. Editing, marketing, platform-building and social media management are HUGE time sucks for both traditionally published and Indie authors. I knew it would take effort, but I had no idea these ancillary tasks would be so necessary and intense.

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    1. On the mend and feeling good. =) Thanks!
      Good point! Can't believe I missed that one. =) Writing is only half the battle. The amount of marketing and work that comes afterwards is insane. Thanks for the comment!

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  6. Totally relatable post, Hannah! :) I am thankful for the few writer-friends I have that understand my strangeness... When you were talking about the web-search problems, I instantly remembered the list of characters I keep on my phone. Ugh... I'm odd. Hehe. :P

    Thanks for making me smile!! <3

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    1. Lol! I feel your pain. I have sticky notes with character names scattered all over my desk. It's always nice to have fellow writers who understand that weirdness comes with the territory. =)

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  7. Number 2 man. That is the kicker.

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  8. Wonderful article, Hannah :) Every point so true it cuts to the bone, lol. Personally, I'd have liked to know that I'd need reading glasses before 30. Also, that my posterior is going to get flat (also before 30) from sitting down hours upon hours. And many other things... But, what can you do, right? It's like you say - no dang off button!

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    1. Yeah, reading glasses do not sound fun. I'm assuming I'll have to get some soon, too. And you know I'll end up breaking or losing them. Not cool. =]

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  9. Ugh. The non-writer questions.
    "Can I read your book please? You should send it to me!"
    Um, I'm not even started the edits and let's not talk about the major plot whole in chapter six and the rewrite needed of the ending and I've decided that one of the characters need to be half-dragon.
    *blank stare*

    OR:

    "You should totally hurry up and get published! I'm dying to read your book."
    Well guess what I'm dying to be finished with this book and become published but it's just NOT THAT EASY.

    *sigh* They just don't understand like our other writer friends. :p

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    1. Lol! You're too funny. There are some things non-writers just can't understand....

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  10. Absolutely LOVED this article!! I didn't know other writers also did that while reading others' books or had such crazy search history :) And yes, there have been plenty of times where I wish I knew from first-hand experience what it was like to pass out.
    Those questions people ask drive me insane. I usually get the "Oh, you're writing a book! Are you going to publish it?" Hehe. No, after I finish it I'll leave it to rot in the attic.
    Thanks for the fantastic article and hope you have a speedy recovery!!!

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    1. Thank you, Adina! Glad you enjoyed the article. Remember you are not alone: there are plenty of other crazy writers out there. =)
      Passing out: everything starts to go very quiet and distant-sounding, you feel like you're melting into the ground, and then you just drift off. It's very strange. But there, now you can write about it. =)
      Thanks for the well-wishes! I get better every day.

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  11. Great article. #5 in particular is very true! A necessary evil, I guess, but I do long for the days when I just read a book for enjoyment. It's so hard to turn off the editor part of my brain!

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    1. Thank you! And yes, it's so sad. I think there are a lot of books I probably would have liked several years ago, but can't enjoy now that I'm a writer. Grrrr.

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  12. Hannah, this is hilarious - and oh so true! Would you mind if I used your pie chart as one of my Monday Funnies? (I post a cartoon every Monday on my site) I would link back to this article, of course.

    Thanks,
    Margaret Locke
    AuthorMargaretLocke@gmail.com
    margaretlocke.com

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    1. Hey Margaret! Go for it. I would be honored. =) Thanks for asking!

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  13. Oh, that circle graph... came to the second-last item on the list (browsing the internet) and gave a hysterical, embarrassed little giggle, because that's so true...

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    1. Lol! Exactly. Pinterest is my personal kryptonite. Glad to give you a little laugh. =)

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  14. Hannah,

    Stumbled on your blog while procrastinating editing. I hate editing. Passionately.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed everything I read, and you seem like a writer after my own heart! Anyone who knows and loves the Chronicles of Prydain can't be too far off. ;-)

    I'm working on getting my first book into shape for publication. And you're 100% right -- no one told me how hard it is or how lonely or how much I hate my own writing or how no one understands.... Sigh. Which is, I suppose, why finding another writer who does understand is so refreshing!

    Anyway... good luck with your book! (I salute you for your tenacity to stick with traditional publishing. That was my first choice, but, alas! It was not to be.) And keep up the good work!

    ~Katie

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    1. Right with you on the editing hatred, Kate. =) I'm so happy to meet a fellow Prydain lover! Like you said, writing is lonely and a lot messier than expected, so I'm glad you found my post helpful. Keep on working on your writing! I'm sure you can make it happen if you set your mind to it. Thanks for the sweet comment!

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  15. so if I wanted to start my own blog, what would be some things that i would need to know? (besides these;thanks for the heads-up!)

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    1. Hi Kaitlynn! I am so sorry for the late response!

      Here's an article about how to use a blog for platforming: http://hannahheath-writer.blogspot.com/2016/03/10-tips-for-using-blogging-to-build.html It tells you a lot about things you'll need to know. But the main tip is this: Don't expect it to grow over night. So many people start up blogs, but shut it down after a few months (or even a year) because it's not gaining enough traction. Please keep working. It took me almost 2 years to get to a place where I felt my blog was doing well. It's hard and can be discouraging, but just keep going and you'll get it.

      I hope this helps! Again, so sorry for not responding sooner! I just saw this comment.

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    2. Awesome! Thank you so much for your help!!

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  16. Another thing which can be annoying is people calling your first drafts boring even though it's just the beginning. They seem to believe that if the beginning stinks, the whole story will fail. I mean, sometimes bold beginnings are what hook a reader but they are judging an unedited version. I love this post. Your blog is awesome, Hannah!

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  17. i could relate to every single one of them. it is so real, every post of your is so real.

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  18. I especially Relate to #3.

    The first time people read my name, about 95% of them pronounce it wrong (until I correct them).
    I most likely will come up with a pen name so people won't be calling me something ridiculous. (I won't use my real name, bc I'm not allowed to post personal info on the Internet, but you get the idea)

    Great post as usual!

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