Hard Work


Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you — as if you haven’t been told a million times already — that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching.
– Harlan Ellison

Say what you will about Ellison (and many people have said many things), I think he’s got it. If it wasn’t for my writing I don’t think I could survive my day job. There’s not much enrichment in being an administrative assistant. I spend the greater part of each day looking forward to coming home and spending time on my WIP. I am lucky in that I have a decent bunch of people to work with which makes all the difference. But every single day I have my little jump drive with me, with my WIP on it, and if I get a few spare minutes try to get some few words added. Even when I can’t it’s always in the back of my mind, filling up the spaces the job leaves vacant.

Sometimes I think it’s better for writers to have day jobs that don’t demand too much of them so they can focus on their writing and not stay up until midnight working on a big sales presentation, or still be answering e-mail at ten o’clock at night. I, at least, could not expend that much energy in two directions at the same time, but maybe others can. I do not live for my job, and until I become a full-time writer, I don’t think I ever will.

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22 thoughts on “Hard Work

  1. Hey Astro Sis!

    “Even when I can’t it’s always in the back of my mind..”

    Same here. My story and its characters are always on my mind. Even in my dreams. It’s really like having two lives at once.

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  2. Hi Doctor Tom,

    Thanks for coming by and your comment. You realize of course that everyone writing anything that requires medical authenticity will now be dropping in on your blog 😉

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  3. Heya Astro Sis,

    At least this way I have an excuse for my multiple personality disorder! But really, there’s a road I drive to work on every day and it’s even been worked into the story. There’s a marvelous swamp/bog on one side of the road, and the days that are frosty and foggy give it an ethereal, otherworldly look. So even my drive to and from work lets me live in my story a little bit.

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  4. Even though my day job used to be ghostwriting, it wasn’t the same as writing for myself full time. When I finally wrapped on a project at the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was write more, so I rarely got any of my own work done.

    I know for a fact I couldn’t handle a high-stress job and write at the same time. You hear about doctors and lawyers and other professionals “writing in their spare time”, but these people must be robots.

    Writing takes an inordinate amount of mental and emotional strength. My Mom is an admin asst. and I see how much she has to deal with during the day. It’s amazing you have the strength to write. 🙂

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  5. One of these days I want to get out there and take some pictures of it, preferably early in the morning when the fog is there. I can’t really stop on the way in to work, it’s a narrow, twisting two-lane road and there are no shoulders. One side is the bog, the other side a hill. They carved the road out of the side of the hill. I’ll have to do it on a weekend, and park nearby and just walk to it. You’ll love it 🙂

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  6. Hi Sam,

    I don’t understand how people like lawyers and doctors do it “in spare time” either, like our new friend here Doctor Tom. My job is straight 8-5, I never have to put in overtime, and never work weekends although I know admins who do. But virtually everyone else in my dept. that I support brings their laptop home every night and it’s not at all unusual for them to be online at midnight sending e-mails. I don’t care how much money they make, life is too short for that.

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  7. O really envy people who write while working full time jobs!

    I’m slowly starting to figure out just how hard it is to be a writer myself. However, no matter how hard it gets, I still enjoy it a million times more than being a lawyer. But the problem with being a lawyer is that although I can earn a comfortable living it leaves close to no time to write and just saps all my energy and creativity.

    I would love to be a full time writer some day. But right now, I suppose I just need the courage to walk away and find another job that won’t make writing so difficult.

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  8. Hi Pace,

    Wow, that’s a tough call. I would have a hard time just walking away from a career like that, especially these days. It is draining, though. My eldest sister was an attorney most of her adult life, although she’s pretty much out of it now. She was a family law specialist and got burned out from all the vicious divorces. She did arbitration for awhile, but these days I don’t think she does much of that either.

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  9. Hello. Thanks for the reply!

    I’m having a tough time deciding myself. I think the desire to leave lawyerdom stems more from my disdain for the job more than anything else. Life’s too short to be dreading going to work every day and I was getting burned out physically and psychologically. I’m still young, not too late to start a new profession, but there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty over it all, especially in the current economic climate.

    There’s going to be a fair amount of soul searching in the next few months (as I finish up my Masters) for sure!

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  10. Sam had some interesting thoughts. I have to take medicine seriously, but I love the arts because they relax me.

    I am probably average as a writer and find to write well is very difficult. But I write for the same reason I play the mandolin; to find the peace that allows me to go another day as a Doc.

    I have always said when I play the mandolin if I miss a note no one dies, and I am the same about writing. (Which is one reason I have too many typos!)

    The arts can get very difficult when one tries to make a living at it. For me it is a serious passion, but I know I’m not the next Hemingway either so there is no pressure.

    Dr. B

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  11. When I was working (currently unemployed) I did my best to do my writing early in the morning. I found that, at least for me, staring at a computer screen all day was very tiring and, by the time I got home, I was mentally wiped. And writing, as you said, is hard work. I can sit down and write for, let’s say, a hour straight and feel pretty darn tired afterward.

    So I started getting up early in the morning and writing. That meant, of course, that I had to go to bed earlier in the evening but since I was already tired from working all day that wasn’t such a loss.

    Now, I have the time to write—in between looking for work—but I also have to deal with the stress of lack of money, which can be just as draining as working full-time and trying to write. If not more draining, as you’re always in danger of possibly winding up on the street; not to be overly dramatic, but that’s the reality.

    But yes, I do wonder how people with really high-stress jobs are able to find the energy to write on their off times but some of them do seem to find it. I have a writer friend who’s a pediatric nurse and she’s putting out a least a book a year.

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  12. Hi,

    I find all this really interesting as it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

    I’ve just started a new job as a receptionist/switchboard operator at a place that is really quiet – I am constantly bored. I’d really like to try for a transfer somewhere busier (which I think is a possiblilty) and would hopefully help progress my career to Team Leader and beyond.

    HOWEVER, I have also just started a writing course. At the moment I (sneakly) do some writing at work (and my blog – shhhh!) and have no stress so can go home and write. So, do I keep with this job and writing (good for the writing, but if I get no where with this I’ll be no where in my career too!) OR do I try and move somewhere else (good for career, but will reduce the amount of writing I can do)?

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  13. PS – sorry for the spelling errors I am so used to spell check before I send anything I forgot! Please don’t judge me (I would if I was reading it myself!!!)

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  14. Hi newtowritinggirl,

    Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and your comments. It’s hard to find that balance between earning a living and writing. It seems very few people actually earn a living as a full-time writer, although obviously some do. I have an older post on my blog about how much authors make, you may want to take a look at that as well.

    What kind of writing are you interested in doing?

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  15. That’s really interesting, thanks. I’ve always said I don’t think I could ever give up work and just write – I love people interaction too much and would get lonely – now I know I’d probably need another job for money too!

    I’ve always wanted to write a ‘chick-lit’ book, but now I’ve started this course they make you try out different genres, so who knows? It’s a really good course and something I’ve always wanted to do, so I think worthwhile even if it doesn’t get me anywhere 🙂

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  16. Being around people is always grist for the mill, anyway.

    I would say write what you love. Obviously you have to do what the course is telling you, and that’s all to the good to try your hand at different genres. But if you hate mysteries, or thrillers, you probably won’t excel in that. I could never write a police procedural type book, a la Ed McBain, I have no interest in that. That said, many people start off in one genre that may be easier to break into print with, and then move into what they love once they have established themselves and have some track record to get the attention of the publishers they’re really targeting.

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  17. Yeah, everyone’s heard about how Janet Evanovich got her start writing cheesy romance novels as a way to pay the bills, and after getting a few published and attracting the attention of some publishers, she went with her heart and started writing murder mysteries, most of which have been hugely successful best sellers. It might not click for all of us as it did for Janet, and some of her books are better than others, but I admire her story as one of a writer who followed her heart.

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  18. I admit I had not heard that. But it doesn’t surprise me, I have often heard the romance genre is often one of the easier ones to break into print with. There seems to be an insatiable demand for them. I think I would find it difficult to write convincingly in a genre I don’t read, though.

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  19. yeah, ditto here. I don’t begrudge anybody their crap, and I stand by my statement that reading anything is better than reading nothing, but the cheesey romance genre has never been my crap of choice. The bonus in Janet’s case is that now that she’s got a rabid fan base resulting from her mysteries, all the romances have been re-released under her real name (they were originally published under pseudonyms) and they sell like hotcakes.

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