The Joys and Struggles of the Writing Life
A writer is someone who writes. I am a writer. That means I spend a lot of time in my studio alone with my thoughts, ideas, and words. They tumble from my mind, to my fingers, into notebooks, on scraps of paper, on sticky notes, and onto my computer screen. Sometimes they get shared with others, often they do not. I have to say it is not lonely work. All of my characters, both those realized on the page and those still clamoring for attention in my head keep me company. Daily we set out on quests together. Sometimes there is an itinerary and perhaps a map and we know where we are headed. More often we move by serendipity and impulse, taking the distracting side roads that offer adventure.
This is the best part of being a writer. When I am in the middle of a story in the company of interesting characters, the time just flies by. I start writing or typing and soon I am caught up in the narrative and I forget everything else. Hours go by and I will look up in a bleary-eyed haze and realize I have written through lunch and that it’s time to think about making dinner or walking the dog who is pacing nervously at the door. That is the reason I write. Being able to construct whole worlds populated with characters I created is so much fun that it does not feel like work. I have read often about writers who say that writing is agonizing and frustrating and I do not understand that sentiment at all. The act of creating something that did not exist before is what keeps me going. It is powerful.
On the other hand, being a writer also means trying to find a way to get your stories out into the world. This is the tough part. You send out your work that you have spent hours writing, re-writing., honing, and polishing and you cross your fingers and wait. Recently I submitted a story to a magazine and waited for two months. I knew it was a long shot because they only publish 24 stories a year and receive hundreds of submissions. When the deadline passed and I had not heard anything I was disappointed but not surprised.
Two days after the deadline for notification, I received word that my work had passed the first round and was short listed for publication. I was elated. This would be my first national publication which would mean validation from the “writing world.” Not only that, unlike many magazines, it offered a cash payment which would vault me into the ranks of a professional writer. I was rather full of myself for a few days. Still, I kept writing.
A week later, the second email informed me that my story had not made the final cut. Despite the kind words they offered for my work, I was devastated. Alas, this is the most common outcome for hopeful writers. Knowing I am in good company helps a bit, but the sting is still there. I allowed myself a bit of a pity party and then I went back to work.
I am a writer. Does the fact that I am still unpublished and unknown change that? No. A writer is someone who writes. I keep writing, churning out stories, because I love it. It is what I was created to do. Those noisy characters in my head insist that I tell their tales so I have adopted the roles of scribe, bard, storyteller. I will also keep putting my stories into the world, no matter the odds. One day soon, I hope, publication will happen. If not I will still write. I am a writer. It is what I do.