It’s not uncommon to hear authors say that they always wanted to write books. For many, including myself, it was a childhood dream job.
It’s not the kind of employment you fall into by accident. Getting published takes time, dedication and a lot of hard work. It has to be something you really want; a goal you’ll work towards without guaranteed financial reward.
As I write this article, my fifth novel, How to Save a Life, is soon to be published. I’m lucky enough to be a full-time author, living the dream, so to speak.
Is it everything I hoped it would be?
Now seems like a good time to weigh up the pros and cons of being a working novelist. I’m in my forties and I’ve been doing this for a few years. I also had a variety of other jobs beforehand, including being a newspaper journalist and a holiday rep.
How does it compare? Is it the best job ever?
Absolutely, without question. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.
And yet that doesn’t mean it’s perfect all the time.
So here are the five things I love most about being an author, followed by those I don’t love quite so much.
My high fives:
1 Having the shortest commute ever – basically a stumble downstairs from bed to computer. Or some days, not even that. The beauty of a laptop is being able to work pretty much anywhere. Certain aspects of being an author, like dreaming up new ideas, often work better away from a blank screen. I’ve come up with some of my favourite plot twists in the bath and shower, for instance. Local beauty spots are also good sources of inspiration.
2 Hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed my work. It’s always lovely to receive positive feedback via my website or social media. There’s no greater pick-me-up if I’m having a rough day, because the main reason I write stories is for people to read them.
3 Seeing one of my books ‘in the flesh’, usually a paperback in my case, never grows old. It’s always wonderful to pick up a copy and hold it in my hands for the first time, knowing that all the hard work I’ve put into it, thinking, writing and editing, has led to the creation of this physical product.
4 Not having to dress up for work every day. Years of wearing a shirt, tie and blazer at school, followed by more of the same as a journalist, have made me appreciate the simple joy of wearing whatever I like as I write. It makes dressing up for special occasions far more of a pleasure.
5 Meeting other novelists. I didn’t know any other published authors at all when I first started out, but now I know several and really enjoy their company. It takes a certain kind of person to be an author; it’s always nice to know that I’m not the only one who thinks and does things the way I do.
My low fives:1. One-star book reviews. Yes, all published authors have these. They never make pleasant reading, but they’re something you must take on the chin. People are entitled to their own opinions and it’s impossible to please everyone. 2. The curse of procrastination. I don’t know any author who hasn’t suffered from this at some point. It appears in various guises, from finding things around the house to fix, to online shopping. It’s the enemy – and we must fight it. 3. Writer’s block. Yes, this is a real thing. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean a sudden inability to write. It tends to be more subtle, in my experience, equating to a loss of confidence in your writing. Procrastination can also be a symptom of this. 4. People treating or referring to writing fiction as not being a ‘real job’. It is, trust me, even though it might not look that way from the outside. There’s an awful lot of work involved and various pressures that most people don’t appreciate, from tight deadlines to marketing yourself on social media and fretting about reviews and sales. Yes, it’s enjoyable much of the time, but jobs don’t have to be unpleasant. 5. Constantly feeling that anything you do other than writing or editing your current manuscript isn’t actual work. Since there are always plenty of other writing-related things that need doing, this can lead to unnecessary self-flagellation.
So there we have it. My lows are niggles, really, rather than genuine bugbears. What can I say? I love my job.
If writing is your dream, go for it!
* How to Save a Life by S.D. Robertson (Avon) is released on 11 June