The Secret Lives of Writers – Karen Banes
Karen Banes is a writer, editor, indie author, wife, mother, truth seeker and trouble maker. She’s lived, worked and studied in five countries on three continents. She mainly writes non-fiction, dabbles in short fiction and dreams of writing a dystopian future novel. She loves connecting with other writers and indie authors and shares an awful lot of writing and publishing tips, mainly on Twitter and at her website KarenBanes.com.
Five Myths about the Writing Life – Busted
There are many myths about the writing life. Writing is easy. Writing is astronomically hard. Everyone has a book in them. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays. Modern day celebrities write their books.
The following are simply the myths I come up against most often, and the ones I think need busting.
If you work from home, it’s not real work
Unlike a lot of writers I write full-time. Actually that’s not true. My home based freelance business is more multi-faceted than that (see the second myth in this list).
Recently I mentioned to a family member that I was looking forward to my annual holiday (I’m British, so my holiday is my vacation), to which she replied, ‘You’re always on holiday.’ No criticism or malice, just a calm assumption that because I work from home, I don’t actually work.
This was extreme in its inaccuracy but it’s not the first time someone has assumed that my writing does not constitute real work. Once when I told a friend I couldn’t attend an event because of work (I was on a ridiculously tight deadline for a valuable client). She replied, “Really? Did you get a job?”
I tell myself I’m in good company. I remember reading that the acclaimed novelist Anne Tyler, shortly after she published her 14th book, was asked at the school gates “Have you found work yet? Or are you still just writing?”
Oh and that holiday I took? A regular client needed some work on a tight turnaround that week, so I wrote, invoiced and got paid, all while ‘taking a vacation’. The myth might be that you’re always on holiday. The reality is, you never are.
Writer’s Just Write
The belief that writing isn’t real work perhaps springs from an image of us writers sitting around calmly writing at a leisurely pace, thinking about our work, or maybe waiting for the muse to strike. Gustave Flaubert is reported to have once said, “I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon removing it.”
My freelance business is a little more diverse, and labour intensive, than that (and I can write 1000 words in half an hour, before breakfast).
I offer writing, copy editing and proofreading services. I run two niche blogs (which involves buying in posts from other writers, editing them, promotion, affiliate marketing and a lot of techy stuff). I’ve self-published six short non-fiction ebooks and am working on the next (and I work on marketing those ebooks, every single day).
I provide copy writing services for businesses, authors and websites. I research potential markets for my work and then pitch and develop ideas for websites and magazines. I love writing fiction but find non-fiction pays the bills, so I limit my fiction writing, but still write several short stories a year. I enter them in writing contests. Sometimes they win prizes. I offer quirky ‘add-on’ services such as writing social media updates or book blurbs.
I also market my business, maintain my website, manage my social media accounts, prepare invoices, track finances, file receipts, and attend training courses and networking events (mostly online, occasionally off). I’d like to spend a whole day moving commas around, but that’s not how it works. A writer writes, it’s true. But a commercially successful writer runs a writing business. That involves a broad skill set.
Getting Published is Hard
Since I’ve had ebooks available for sale on Amazon, non-writers have tended to take me more seriously. They think that if they can buy my book at a major retailer and put it on their Kindle or iPad, I must be a real writer.
This is because few people understand the publishing industry as it stands in 2015. My ebooks are self-published, and self-publishing genuinely couldn’t get much easier. You can do it through Amazon’s publishing platform with one click.
So publishing is easy. A trained monkey could do it. Which means the marketplace is extremely crowded. Know what’s hard in a crowded marketplace? Selling books. And getting positive attention and good reviews for your books. So please don’t be impressed that I’ve published a book. If you want to be impressed that I’ve sold thousands of copies and garnered over a hundred positive reviews, please go ahead. That’s what sets me apart from the trained monkeys.
Every Piece of Writing You Produce Contains Your Very Soul
For me, this is the oddest thing about writing. I do it for a living, which means, some days at least, I’m just churning out the words to order. If a blog owner wants a few posts on parenting, or an editor of a travel site wants a few travel pieces, I’ll research, write, proof, submit and repeat.
It’s bizarre how people will see something I’ve written a long time ago (that happens to still be up on the internet somewhere) and expect me to be able to discuss it, in-depth. Expecting me to remember a piece I wrote in 2010 is like me expecting you to remember exactly what you did on a given day at work in 2010. We write, we move on. We (hopefully) produce the best work we can on any given day, but we don’t remember the details of every piece we write, any more than a hair stylist remembers every single haircut, or a construction worker remembers every brick ever laid.
Every writer wants to be E L James
Yes, we know. She made millions of dollars. She got a lot of people who haven’t picked up a book since high school to read again. She ‘invented’ erotica for women. (Umm, anyone else remember Anais Nin?)
She’s also been criticised for bad writing, ridiculous plot holes, and promoting abusive relationships. All the writers I know take pride in producing excellent, meaningful, grammatically sound work. Commercial success is important, but so is reputation and building a body of work to be proud of. No writer I’ve met wants to be E L James.
If you’re a writer, what myths do you deal with every day? If you’re not, feel free to tell us something you believe about the writing life. We’ll bust that myth, or maybe confirm it.
The Secret Live of Writers is a series of blog posts from writers (published or unpublished) who dish the dirt on how they juggle life and art. You can read bout the whys and wherefores here.
The Secret Lives of Writers is now available as an ebook
You can now read all 13 guests posts from Volume 1 in the one convenient ebook. It’s out now in the Amazon Kindle Store and in other stores (iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc.) too.
Full of writing inspiration and advice, if you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, and this book doesn’t get you putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), nothing will!
You can grab your copy from the Delicious Publishing Book Store.