An Open Letter from a Writer to the General Public
To whom it may concern,
It’s often said that everybody has a book in them. Perhaps there’s an element of truth to this because each and every one of us haves stories woven into our DNA’s, wanting to be told in one form or another. But a question I’d like to pose is this: How many of us have the patience; the staying power to bring these books to the surface of the vast ocean of our imaginations?
The reason I ask this is because I have observed, over the years of my writing life (and through comments made by other writers), that a great gulf exists between a writer seeing a book through to fruition and the perceived work that goes into such a project by others. It may sound like I have a chip the size of the Empire State building on my shoulder – the woe-is-me persecuted writer. But I would suggest that few other professions exist in which individuals are so lambasted (either intentionally or otherwise), and so misunderstood.
Here are a few questions and comments that fellow writers and I commonly hear:
When are you going to get a proper job?
Why aren’t your books in all the bookshops?
Are you going to be the next JK Rowling?
Will you ever go back to work?
I’ve always wanted to write a book. Maybe I will now you’ve done it.
Can I have a freebie?
I’ve got a brilliant idea for a book. Listen to this . . .
How much money do you make being a writer?
Will I have heard of you?
Are you enjoying it while it lasts?
These questions may be laughable and sometimes meant in jest. But they call into question the dedication to our craft, the months and years of our hard work and our belief in ourselves as writers. Amanda Palmer (artist, musician, writer and all-round creative) once said that “You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.” But don’t, dear reader, underestimate just how long it can take to craft this emotion tied up in the written word which does make you feel something. It can take hours, days, sometimes even months.
So, to return to the notion at the beginning of this letter: do we all have a book in us? Perhaps, yes. But can we all write a book? Definitively and categorically, no. To write a book is an epic labour of love and hard work; a feat of patience, perseverance, the art of agonising over single words and single sentences to get it just right; editing and re-editing, again and again, and again. We may often work at home, but in many ways, this can make our jobs all the more difficult because we are required to juggle the various, numerous demands of our home lives.
We love what we do. And yes, maybe we wouldn’t do anything else. But it’s no stroll in the park.
It’s a demanding, fraught journey littered with obstacles + heartbreak.
And sometimes it can even feel demeaning (especially when we find ourselves hit with a number of the above questions on a regular basis.)
Imagine asking a lawyer or a doctor when they’re going to get a proper job, or if you could have a freebie.
You wouldn’t, would you?
Just something to think about.
Thank you for reading this.
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