In the previous post, I outlined my thoughts on ‘creating’ versus ‘crafting,’ how I’m a definite ‘crafter,’ how to write the types of books I want to write I need to skip off occasionally to some of the out-of-the-way places of the world, and mentioned how this involved making certain sacrifices. Now, I’m going to detail some of those sacrifices, beg for your sympathy, and have you mired in a chasm of despair at my hardships.
The above is the apartment where I lived in for three years in Taiwan. Pretty tiny. Prior to going there, I was in a decent two-bedroom with a roommate in Toronto, but the place before that was an underground bachelor apartment in an old, converted house with horrible carpets and a constant smell of damp, where I lived for about five years. The place I’m in now in Chisinau (granted, only for a month) is again a single room with a single bed, a table, a lamp, and a small closet. As you are probably coming to understand, devoting your life to writing does not earn you a hell of a lot of money.
That’s the dream, though, of course. You always hear about the writers who have made it big, sold millions of copies of their books, and jet-set across the globe speaking at literary festivals and signing books for their fans and having a merry old time. Well, those people are probably 0.00002% of the entire author population [I like quantifying us akin to a colony of shrimp, or something – many will get eaten, many will barely survive, but only a very few will turn into those jumbo prawns you can get once a year at Red Lobster (I know shrimp and prawns are two different things – just grant me the analogy please)].
So why not just get a good full-time job and write on the side, you ask? I tried that. It doesn’t work. You have to spend so much time and energy on your job that by the time you could get around to your writing, you’re just too mentally tired and your brain isn’t in the right place. Or at least, that’s been my experience. I even took on a night-shift job for a while, thinking I could use those long, dark hours spent alone in an empty office to write, but it didn’t pan out (not seeing the sun for days on end didn’t do much for my sanity). The one thing I haven’t tried is serving, or some other type of manual labour; I know many writers and actors and other creative types end up doing this because it has nothing to do with their art and they can just go, do it, and not have to take it home with them. I might give this a try next.
So, nice living accommodation and nice things – the first sacrifice that needs be made. The second one is on the personal side. This type of lifestyle is not so conducive to providing for people, emotionally or monetarily. To be a writer you basically have to be a total narcissist; you have to believe that the work you’re doing is so good that of course thousands of people are going to want to read it. And believe me, you truly have to believe this, because if you didn’t, why would you even bother? If you thought your writing was crap, what would force you to do it? So basically, you’re constantly wrapped up in your own thoughts and the conflicts of your characters and how you’re going to structure this or that (I call it ‘The Daze’) … which can often get in the way in the dating department. You don’t necessarily give others the credit they deserve. It’s hard to have even a basic conversation with someone when your mind is a million miles away. I won’t go too much more into that.
Now, I realize that many, many writers do have successful relationships, and families, and hold down steady jobs that pay them enough to buy houses and cars etc. So if they can do it, why can’t I? Well, my guess would be it’s because they’re ‘creators.’ If you can write a book by sitting at a desk in your home, staring out the window and imagining the whole story in your head – regurgitating about your past breakups, envisioning fantastical worlds, making vampire soft-porn – then fine, you can probably get it to work. But again, I’m always off traveling the world somewhere, doing research and slowly putting all the various pieces together for my stories; besides, I also think that many aspiring writers actually get swamped by all the professional and domestic responsibilities they take on and never end up writing anything. I wanted to make sure I never fell into that trap.
Because yes, while these things are sacrifices I’ve had to make, they’ve all been done willingly. Nobody forced me to have to (not want, have) to write my books in Taiwan and Moldova. That’s just how they came out of my brain. Would I have it any other way? Of course not. 🙂
Next up – the specific process I use to get a book from head to page to polished manuscript, and that will be the last time I write about writing for a while, I swear.