Real Writers Risk

I read an insightful piece on Fast Company‘s website today by novelist Michael Grothaus about how he quit his six-figure tech job to write his book. What I loved most was this part:

Like any dream venture, whether it’s writing a novel or launching a startup, there is a large amount of risk involved. It’s often the fear that risk brings—How will I find the time? How will I pay the bills? What if I’m no good and don’t succeed?—that often keeps people chained to careers they may, at best, tolerate and at worst, detest.

This explains why I get irritable when some most likely well-meaning person at a cocktail party tries to relate to me by saying something like, “Oh, I’ve always meant to write a book,” or “I really want to become a writer when I retire.” Maybe they really have meant to write a book, and maybe they will. And there’s nothing wrong with picking up a writing hobby upon retirement. But these offhand comments, which imply that anyone can be a professional writer, downplay the hardest part (beyond the actual writing, which is not always a picnic): the risks professional writers take every day.

I love my freelance writer life and the control it gives me over my days (sort-of … though I promise there are plenty of days that feel way out of my control, full of interview times being changed and assignments I take to pay the bills). But walking away from a steady paycheck is a risk. Writing something and just hoping someone will pay you for it someday is a risk. Writing something and publishing it is a risk, and neither the comments sections nor the critics will let you forget it.

Real writers’ main job requirement isn’t writing. To get to the writing, and to get it out there, they must take constant risks.

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5 comments

  1. Well put, Jennifer. The ‘interior’ risks are real, and sometimes terrifying to contemplate. But if we can slay that dragon, the mighty sword becomes a still mightier pen.

  2. Reblogged this on finallyflorida and commented:
    I’m experimenting with the reblogging feature. Also I’m relating to taking risks and also I don’t want to blog about my life today, although it’s a good day! Jennifer is a professional writer. I think there’s a difference between a writer and someone that wants to write a book or ramble on a blog. Although most of my days are spent writing, when not at the beach, I can not and would not call myself a writer. Most advice I read for us wannabe writers is “don’t quit your day job” – or in my case “get the job first” .

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