Monday, February 8, 2016

The Contradictions of Life as a Writer

Writing is such a fickle thing. I've been at this for a good many years, and you'd think by now I'd have it all figured out. Strangely, the only thing I am sure of, is that to live as a writer is to live with contradictions, things that aren't logical no matter how you look at them.

Productivity is a perfect example. For the longest time I bewailed (real wailing, not just the metaphorical kind) the fact that I couldn't just stay home and write. Imagine how many books I'd write! All the best seller list scalps I could hang on my belt!

Here's the reality - as a painfully slow writer I can spend a few hours writing and produce around 700 words. If my day turns busy and I can only squeeze in an hour? 500. What if it goes completely pear-shaped and I only get 20 minutes? Still 500. That makes no sense right? But there you have it. Turns out for me, 90% of writing is thinking before I go near my laptop. So to 'stay home to write all day' will probably never work for me.

The distraction of real life is another thing I used to kick against. The sink full of dishes, ironing for five, school runs and homework. Wow, just think how much I could write if I didn't have to do all that stuff! And yet it is all that 'stuff' that gives me my best material. For one thing, it doesn't use up much brain space to wash a batch of dirty dishes. Ironing isn't exactly rocket science. So while my hands are busy, guess what is going on in my brain? Plotting, scheming, character arc'ing. The other thing is how much actual material real life dishes up for you. Remember the time you locked yourself out the house in pouring rain or had to roll start your car because the battery died? Dress those up and parade them through your stories and your reader will be going Oh my word! I can relate! 

To be published means you've arrived is just not true. I don't think I'm the only one that lived for that one email to land in my inbox offering me publication. And yet after that happened, I had to face the reality that landing a publishing contract doesn't guarantee that the next book you write will find a publishing home. Getting a contract doesn't rocket you into becoming a household name, or selling millions of copies of your wonderful book. What it does do though, is establish a relationship with a team of people who are in the publishing business. It gives you access to editors who will grow your craft way beyond where you could grow by yourself. It moves you closer to the top of the slush pile for the next book you write. 

Those are just some of the contradictions that I've had to make peace with. How about you? Can you relate? Are there others that you've discovered along the way? I'd love to hear from you.

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Smashwords.

Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.


  1. I relate, Diane. I produce both quantity and quality when pressed for time. Give me a leisurely day and the writing "expands to fill the time available" not necessarily to expand the word count.

    1. I'm so glad to know it's not just me Alice!

  2. Thanks, Diane. This is the kind of post that encourages the rest of us ordinary folks that we can live this writing life, in spite of distractions and contradictions.

    1. Janice, I've come to realize that 'ordinary' folks make extraordinary writers. We plod on together! :D