Writer Life

I get up early, because a deadline looms.

The deadline isn’t a surprise, really. I’ve known about it for some time, but I’ve found reasons to delay the actual writing of the piece in question because:

  • I need to finish all the interviews!
  • I need to figure out the story “trajectory”!
  • I need to do an outline!

Those are really great but all completely bogus reasons:

  • Of course I can start it before I do all the interviews
  • I’ve never figured out the trajectory before I began
  • Outlines are for schmucks and I haven’t done one since Mrs. Van den Beuken forced one out of me in Grade 10

The truth is while all writers are different, many of us are similar in some ways. We moan about deadlines we’ve known about for weeks, we are master procrastinators and we take all the rules of writing and quietly shred them, burn them and dance on the ashes.

And some days, writing life goes like this:

  • Get up early
  • Coffee
  • Turn on laptop
  • Play with dog
  • Look at laptop briefly
  • Play with cat
  • First sentence typed
  • Google a word from first sentence
  • Get distracted by Google search and find yourself googling obscure ufo sighting that has nothing to do with current writing topic
  • Guilt
  • Coffee
  • Second sentence
  • More googling
  • Complete PayPal purchase of completely unrelated item after 46 minute search for said item
  • Sigh
  • Go for a nap with cat
  • Get up groggy and type third sentence
  • More coffee
  • Suddenly tsunami of words hits and madly and furiously type away
  • Triumphantly finish and throw hands up in air while dancing like you’ve just scored a touchdown
  • Realize you are now 600 words over your word limit
  • Scowl at keyboard
  • Begin dismantling your opus, your work of beauty, your baby
  • Finish it feeling a bit like the final runner across the marathon finish line
  • Pour a gin and tonic
  • Realize you have a second piece also due
  • Cry

Yep, writer life.

Five years ago, when I began writing as a hobby after a long absence from writing at all, it was a bit different as every single project was new and exciting and fresh. Over time, though, writing has not only become my craft but my job. For the last four years it’s how I paid the bills. I have a house and a car because I write. Writing isn’t just my passion; it’s my paycheque.

That doesn’t make it any less special, or any less exciting. I’ve just learned a few things, like how to write regardless of how I feel. Whether I’m excited or bored by a subject, whether I’m sick, whether I’m hungover, whether I’m distracted; it’s all immaterial. I just write because that’s what I do.

Most days it’s smooth as butter, and some days it’s not. But that’s how jobs are. And that’s okay, because it means I have reached the point where some of my writer friends, who have done this for decades, finally think I am worthy of the description “professional writer”. I’m no longer the eager-beaver novice who never wanted to ask for a deadline extension (not realizing editors always build this in because writers are not only notorious for needing extensions but almost expected to ask for them) and who often submitted pieces before deadline. I’m no longer the writer who simply agrees with any changes the editor suggests, as I’ve become a bit proprietary of my work. And I’ve come to realize that at times writing should be difficult, because if it’s always smooth as butter then it might be because I’m not working to better my craft.

Objectively, I write better now than I did five years ago, and it’s because of days like the one described above. Those are the days when I’m not just writing but polishing my craft, having to hone down 2,000 words to 1,400, forcing myself to re-evaluate every sentence and justify every letter. I’m forcing myself to self-edit and self-evaluate, not just my words but my skills.

And in writing, as in any job, that’s a good thing.

At the end of the day, I write because it’s part of me. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am.

I’m a writer, and with that comes the writer life, including deadlines, word limits, and coffee.

A helluva lot of coffee.

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