Before you get published, when your dreams of being a writer are still just that, you have this fantasy of what authors’ lives are really like. My fantasy involved the following (lunatic) beliefs:
- All writers are famous.
- All writers sit at desks in quiet, sunlit rooms with beautiful sea or rural views.
- All writers look exactly as they do in their profile pictures.
- All writers have millions of fully-formed ideas for stories in their heads, just waiting to be put down on paper, and all those ideas need to become award-winning novels is to be typed up.
- Writers are sociable, entertaining people who hang out with other writers in literary salons and other cool places.
- As soon as you’ve been published, that means you’ll never be forgotten. You’ve made your mark on the world and your legacy will live on after your death.
Now that I really am a published author, I feel I owe it to other aspiring writers to rip the scales of delusion from their eyes. (You’ll thank for me for it one day. One day when you’ve chosen a different career.)
So, as a public service, here is what I have learned about numbers one to six above:
- All writers are famous. No, they’re not. During a family game last Christmas, the following question arose: “Name five authors”. Not one person mentioned me.
- Authors work in quiet rooms with beautiful views. No, they don’t. I write sandwiched between two neighbours who are obsessed with hammering the shit out of things, and my view is of a pub car park. See my next post for why the “sunlit” part is such a lie.
- An author really looks like his or her profile picture. If you’d ever seen the state of me while I’m working, you’d know this wasn’t true.
- Fully-formed stories live in authors’ heads, just waiting to be put down on paper. If only. This is the biggest fantasy of all.
- Writers socialise a lot. Not most of the writers I know. Most of us are deeply anti-social, mainly due to the hammering in my case, but also because we look like hell from gaining so much weight as a result of sitting down all day. (Not to mention our tendency to reward ourselves for every new paragraph we type by stuffing our faces with chocolate.)
- Writers are remembered by other people after death, because of the books they’ve published. See point 1. My family forgot about me while I was still alive. I rest my case.