Sorry about the long delay since the last post, guys. Birthday shenanigans and other personal interruptions ensued. I’m back now and because I left you with nothing for such a long time, I made today’s post an extra-long one. Enjoy!
Writing is easy! All you have to do is slam a few words down on your computer every day and not worry about anything else. You can just lean back and relax, right? Right?
Wrong. If you’re a writer, you might have thought me crazy for those first two sentences. The problem is that people will actually think that way, because most of the problems we face are not overtly obvious. They think that we need only sit there and spew out a few words without a care in the world!
Well I’m here to tell those people that they’re absolutely wrong! We writers have our own unique problems that, though not obvious to an outsider, can really grind the gears of anyone experiencing it. So here it is! My top ten problems every writer will (inevitably) face!
- Our own impossible standards
We’ve all been there. You just finished an article or chapter of your manuscript. You read through it once, twice, three times and give it thorough edits every time. Finally, with a content sigh, you nod happily. Another brilliant piece finished and perfected! You don’t even need to read it again; you know it’s perfect. Well, mostly… Almost? Alright, you’ll read through it again, but just to set your mind at ease.
What!? What’s this? This word! This sentence! Nay, this entire paragraph! It reeks of amateur filth! How did this slip past your ever vigilant eyes? How could this have possibly gotten past you? It’s a disgrace!
You’ll try to fix it. You’ll spit on it and polish it with your sleeve. There, all is well. Then you make the mistake of looking at it again only to find that you’ve made it worse! This is, of course, all in your head. In the constant strive for perfection you find that your work just never lives up to your own standards. The only thing you can do is let it go and trust that you’ve done your best.
- Constant grammatical criticism from every direction
As writers, we are always held to an impossibly high standard for our own grammar and spelling. People expect plumbers to have no leaky pipes, carpenters to have beautiful furniture, dentists to have perfect teeth and writers to have immaculate grammar. You might have some first-hand experience of this. You’ll be typing up a tweet when you accidentally use the wrong tense or misspell an easy word.
“I just finished reading a great book! Loved the protagnist!” you tweet, not realizing the enormous blemish you’ve just left on your social media post! A minute later you’ll get a response, “I loved the protagonist*!”. What? No! How could this have happened!? Your reputation is in pieces. The only choice you have now is faking your own death, donning a disguise, changing your name, leaving the country, and working as a receptionist for a local air-conditioning company in a small town near the eastern coast of Mexico. Maybe after a decade or two you can return and slowly build up your career again in secret.
Or you could just edit/delete the tweet? Or just not care? Yeah, that sounds good. Do that last one.
“Dear contributor…” – Noooooooooooooooooo!
Anyone who has sent their manuscript or short story to a publisher for publication (or pitched an article to a website) will know of the ever-lasting sting that those two words bring. They rejected you? The very word brings a sour taste to your mouth. You put all your blood and sweat into that damn submission! How could they!? Your emotions range from boiling rage to extreme sorrow. Maybe they sent you the wrong letter? No, your name is on it. Maybe they felt it just needed a small amount of polish? No, their exact words were “absolute garbage”… Maybe they need to go jump off a cliff! How about that?
Hold your horses there, cowboy! Look, maybe you did put all of your heart and soul into that submission. Maybe it’s the best damn work you’ve done in ages and you’ve never been more proud of your writing in your life. The fact is that if it isn’t good enough for them, maybe it does need some work. Or maybe you’re barking up the wrong tree. Send it out to other places and see if you’ll strike gold. Don’t let it get you down. We all have to face rejection eventually.
- Terrible clients / publishers
“Could you also add…?”
The absolute cringe that comes with these words can cause facial spasms in acute cases. Has it ever happened to you? You found a great new client who told you exactly what they want in clearly defined terms. You know exactly what to do! After a day of writing you send it in and eagerly await a reply. The client loves it! It’s brilliant! It’s… hold on… could you maybe just change this little thing? Oh and add a link here and there?
At first this seems completely reasonable, but this single request soon turns into an unstoppable torrent of unreasonable alterations and additions. Soon you find yourself drowning in a river filled with “Could you please”-phrases. At the end of it all, you find that you’ve spent an extra five hours on this project. Whenever you find a client like this, dump them. You have neither the will or time to deal with people as unprofessional as this.
You’ve worked on this piece for ages, perfectly sculpting it into the pristine work of art you envisioned it to be. Now you have to put it to the knife and carve away the unnecessary bits. The very thought gives me chills. It’s your baby! Why should you have to cut it up? Why should you omit these words or change this sentence!? It’s perfect! If people can’t see it as the perfect work of art it truly is, then they must be no more than uncultured swines! Hmpf! *pulls up nose*
Unfortunately this is the reality of it. As perfect as your piece is in your eyes, others might not find it nearly as well written as you’d like. They might notice details you have overlooked. They’ll point out inconsistencies, plot holes, and even (god forbid) grammar and spelling errors! How dare they point out these flaws!? Have they no compassion? Philistines…
Well maybe you could take their criticism and make your writing even better? Nobody can complain then, can they?
- Being criticized for your choice of career
I have personally had to deal with this one before. And not in the “Oh, but that’s not real work” – kind of way, but in the “That’s bullshit, get a real job!” – kind of way.
Oh yeah? Well… Uh…Well drinking yourself into a stupor isn’t a real job either… dad…
Anyway, what you need to remember is that people like this are COMPLETE AND UTTER IDIO… ahem… I mean, they aren’t educated in these topics. They have no way of knowing that they’re being completely insensitive. Even if you explain to them just how important this is to you and how it is a completely viable career choice, they’ll most likely stare at you blankly and not absorb a word of it.
The best advice I can give is to ignore them. You’ll be criticized on everything else, might as well add this to the list.
Not to be confused with the previous example, Naysayers do actually think that writing is a viable career choice. They just don’t think that you can be a writer. Whether it’s your peers, your enemies, your parents or your superiors. Naysayers are out there just waiting for the opportunity to crap all over your dreams. Don’t feel bad when these creatures of darkness infest your life. They have nothing better to do than to rain on your parade whenever the opportunity presents itself. And their parents probably never loved them either.
I was going to say something snarky, but the best, and genuine advice I can give for dealing with these assholes is to prove them wrong. Prove to them that you can be a success and watch them swallow their words.
Time-wasters can either be a person/people or an activity. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether something is a time waster, so let me help you!
- Eating and sleeping: Time well spent!
- Reading a book: Time well spent!
- Doing household chores: Time wasted!
- Siblings who keep interrupting you: Time wasted!
- Funeral of a distant relative: Time wasted!
- Sacrificing a goat to our dark lord: Time well spent!
You get the picture. Time-wasters can be a huge, well, waste of time for any writer. You have more important things to do (and write) than deal with these nuisances!
- Inconsiderate buttheads
I chose the word “buttheads” because the word I wanted to use would have gotten me in a lot of trouble. Inconsiderate buttheads are the kind of people who blast their music right when you want to write. Not at night when it’s party time. Not when you actually want to boogie like it’s 1985. No, these (think of a colourful word to describe them) prefer to blast their music and or television the moment after you tell them you’re going to write. And don’t think it’s just people who play music that are inconsiderate buttheads, oh no, there are people who randomly decide to drag you along to the mall when you sit down at the computer. How about family members or housemates who call you from your writer’s-den to make them a cup of coffee or to hand them the remote? Don’t even get me started on the people who purposely call you just to tell you that you should get out of your room more. There’s a special space on my murder-list for people like that.
Before I get carried away, let me just end it off by saying that most people won’t care about your plans to write. All they care about are their own plans and desires. The best thing you can do is take a deep breath, relax, and learn how to deal with it as you secretly put itching powder in their underwear drawer (it’s the little victories that count).
This is a problem that is completely internal. That means that it is not some outside force that bothers you. No, procrastination is your own laziness and short attention span getting the better of you. You are the problem here. I am not saying that I’m perfect and that I never procrastinate. Of course not! I probably procrastinate more than most of you. What I don’t do, though, is blame something else when it’s clearly my own fault that I didn’t get shit done today. This is something that really gets under my skin because I know that there are many writers out there who suffer from this exact problem, but don’t do anything about it.
Seriously guys. Get your asses in gear. That writing-piece isn’t going to write itself!
Well there you have it: my ten problems that all writers have to face eventually. Do you have any problems you have encountered as a writer? Let me know in the comments!