Things No One Told Me About Being A Writer

This one’s for all the new, innocent, writers out there.

Before I officially started writing the first draft of my first novel, I had no writer friends to warn me about the perils of being a writer. I dived into it with no idea of what was heading my way, so through my own experiences, I now feel it is my duty as a fellow writer to help you be ready for what’s to come as you embark on this journey. This post is in no way meant to discourage you from pursuing a career on this path. Every job in the world comes with its own advantages and difficulties.

Here we go:

1. Stress/Anxiety will be the devil on your shoulder ~ I never thought being a writer could be this stressful. For instance, I get anxious about the words I haven’t written, then I get anxious about the words I have written. I get anxious every other page I write, about the quality and arc of my story and characters. And I get anxious about the stages that come after writing, then I worry if I will ever even reach those stages.

2. You will probably start getting a little obsessive ~ I get obsessed over my settings and characters. I feel like even the minutest detail has to be perfect, then I get super obsessed about the words I use. I spend more time looking them up than I do writing them. I also get obsessed over how often I write. I try to make time for it even if it means I miss my workout, go out less often or sleep a little less. Is that a good thing? No. But I am obsessed with finishing my first draft.

3. You have to make time ~ I thought I would have been done with my first novel by now but I am still halfway through my first draft. It’s been 16 months since I started. Trust me when I say it takes a lot of time. What you imagine in an instant, can take days to put down into words. You have to try and squeeze in a writing session wherever you can otherwise it will eat away at your soul. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but seriously, it takes TIME! If a great book could be written in a matter of days, everyone would be doing it.

4. You can write wherever, whenever and however you like ~ Seriously. I don’t know any job as flexible as being a writer. Whether you’re an indoor cat and prefer coffee shops or your bed, or an outdoor cat and find inspiration at the park or on the beach – whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, plotter or a pantser, like pen and paper or keyboard and screen – there is always the possibility to just sit down and get to it.

5. There’s plenty to learn ~ So much to learn. From developing as a writer in the actual craft, to researching ways to self publish or get traditionally published, find an agent, an editor, beta readers, cover designers or learning to design covers yourself. The list goes on. There is more to this writing thing than just writing.

6. You need to be strong ~ I’m nowhere near finished yet but I can’t help thinking about the future. I am dreading getting rejection slips. It will knock my confidence and I’m worried about that because it took so long for me to find the confidence to actually start writing. But this is something most writers have experienced. From what I’ve gathered, the key is to stay strong, use the feedback you receive to your advantage and don’t let it stop you.

7. You’re not alone ~ There is a whole world of writers out there (mostly on Twitter – get back to work people!) that are going through the same difficulties, worries, joys and accomplishments as you. If you ever need advice, or a good moan to someone who will understand what you’re experiencing, the #WritingCommunity on Twitter is a pretty awesome place to make new friends.

Music & Writing

When I first started writing I did it in perfect silence. Alone with my thoughts with only the sound of the keyboard click clacking, quiet worked for me.

But then I started to experience prolonged periods of being stumped, the words stopped flowing and it became too silent.

I’d read that listening to music can really do wonders when writing because apparently it works both the left and the right side of your brain, it helps you focus, aids creativity and imagination and can bring a variety of emotions to the surface (which is an essential part of telling a story, no?).

So, I decided to give it a try. I prepared a short playlist of some of my favourite pieces of music, put on my headphones and delved back into my first draft.

I soon realized that listening to music or having it play in the background really does make a difference. I was able to concentrate for longer, create more detailed scenes, write dialogue with enhanced emotion, and it generally just made the writing process more enjoyable.

However, it’s important that you choose the right type of music to really benefit from it. In my first playlist I’d included a mixture of songs with lyrics and orchestral pieces, but I found that lyrics were quite distracting as I’d end up singing along instead of doing any writing. Also, a few of the orchestral pieces didn’t fit the tone of my story so it was doing the opposite of inspiring me.

After playing around with the playlist and trying out different genres, artists and even volume, I finally have the perfect set of music for me.

Here are a few tracks from my list that put me in a writing trance:

  • Ludovico Einaudi – Walk
  • Ludovico Einaudi – Earth Prelude
  • Ludovico Einaudi – I Giorni
  • Adam Taylor – River Crossing
  • Adam Taylor – Applause for a Refugee
  • Bonobo – Kong
  • A selection of Hans Zimmer film scores

I have to add that even though music has really helped me during my first draft, there are still times where I prefer quiet; usually when reading over what I’ve already written or during edits. I think it’s really just about what works for you. Like everything else writing.

What do you listen to when writing? Or do you find music distracting? Share in the comments!