Why Aren’t Writers Happier?

Do What You Love and You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life

So goes the popular phrase. Writers must love to write or they would never sit for hours struggling for  just the right word or phrase.

Of course writers love their work. They get to put their thoughts on paper, gather them into chapters and publish them as full-grown books. Writers can write when they want to, goof off if they feel like it, earn $30 or $40 a book, build their bank accounts, and sit back in a comfy chair dreaming of what they’ll wear to that Pulitzer ceremony. Can’t they?

They should be happier than pigs in, well, excrement.

But they’re not.

Writers are Overwhelmed With All They Have To Do.

Every writer I know bemoans the time spent on tasks related to writing but not actually writing. Writers don’t get paid enough, reviewers can be brutal, and the window to keep books on the seller’s shelf is oh, so small. Publishers even cut publishing runs on books which are earning because they need the figures to be even higher. And while I’m certainly not blaming the suffering publishing world, this all adds up to a huge load of stress for writers.

I’m old enough to remember the hype when personal computers were invented and quickly made their way into almost every home. Computers were supposed to make our lives easier.

They were touted to be the invention that would do our work for us, give us lives of indolent bliss, and make the two-week yearly vacation a thing of the past. Why, so much of our work  would be done by machines controlled by computers, we could push a button from home once a day and then go blissfully ahead with our quest for joy and pleasure.

Instead the opposite is true. Computers have changed our world in countless ways but the one I notice affecting the writing world is this: almost every one I meet seems to be writing. The physical act of putting words on screens is so easy that new writers are born every minute. The days of copying out manuscript edits and–horrors!–rewriting whole chapters with pen and paper are gone. We writers can easily revise, reshape, re-imagine our stories and then print them out in pristine fashion. This all means more writers and more manuscripts just at the very time that publishers are disappearing.

More writers + fewer publishers = stiffer competition to get published.

How Can Writers Cope in This Climate?

Many choose to self-publish and/or e-publish. Some even form their own publishing companies. Others learn how to publish or pay big bucks to have someone else do it for them. They ride the wave of excitement, knowing it might toss them at any moment.

Writers must learn to have multiple options on the go at all times. Novels, shorts stories, articles, blog posts, freebie giveaways–all of these things and more are necessary.

Put Your Satisfaction Back In Your Own Hands.

Find the thing about your writing that makes you happy and create situations for that to occur. Read books like the Chicken Soup series (there must be one for writers!) that make you feel good. Read books that accentuate finding the positives in life. (The Secret.) Find the creativity in photography, quilting, woodworking, beading, painting. Get exercise walking, swimming, biking, hiking, skiing.

Be with others. Just now I’m in the chorus for a rendition of The Music Man where I interact with 47 other cast members, not to mention the behind-the-scenes workers. Not only am I having fun but new experiences mean new ideas for writing projects.

How Will You Keep Happy in Your Writing Dream?

Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, suggests a way to live which we writers might apply to the writing life. Take a moment to click on the link.

What do you do to hold on to your writing dream while those all around you are losing theirs? Please leave a comment telling about it.

Coming Soon! A free giveaway of tips for writers!

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32 thoughts on “Why Aren’t Writers Happier?

  1. I will admit, I have moments when my grip on my writing dream is tenuous at best. I am disheartened by the changes in the industry and the flooding of the market with bad “fan fiction” because e-publishing is currently so easy and with little to no regulatory standards.
    I see writers, GOOD writers, falling through the cracks while mediocre/poor writers with lots of cash pump out novel after novel.
    BUT I hang on none-the-less. I love telling a good story; getting caught up in a character or carried away by the emotion of a scene. I like doing things different and finding new ways to do my craft.
    Ultimately, I hold out hope that these changes to the publishing industry will, like the music industry in Canada 20+ years ago, work out for the best and good writers will once again be prevalent.
    I hope that I can consider myself, and you, as one of those writers.

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    • Thanks for that heartfelt comment, Dale. I think you’ve smacked the nail on the head and I especially like your reference to the music industry. Gives us all hope, doesn’t it? Your first line resonates with me and probably all writers. Keep struggling, Dale. It will pay off. BTW I see you’re giving a workshop for Durham Writers. Congratulations, I am so proud of you!

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  2. I’m still working another job for my main income, although less than part time, so don’t have a good grasp on some of the many daunting tasks of full time writers. I hope to full time write one day, but seem to be having trouble getting started. I’m just continuing to write and not trying to let rejection dampen my spirits. I write because I feel the need and it’s been such an incredible outlet for me that I can’t consider not doing it.

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    • Sounds to me like you’re doing just what you should be doing–writing! You’ve said it all in your pen name, creativityorcrazy. Some days I don’t get writing of any kind done and then the next day when I do, I feel this incredible happiness. The sense of release warms the rest of my day. I’ll bet you’re the same. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  3. When I became a full-time writer I hadn’t realised how much I’d miss the routine of going to a day job, and what you say about making sure you still interact with people is so true. Writing can be very isolated. But it doesn’t need to be. I think the blogsphere can be a tremendous help with that. It helps you feel connected to other writers. Thanks for the great post.

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    • I appreciate your comments, Lorrie! And I think you’re right about the Internet and the way it helps writers connect. The lonely garret days are gone, unless we want them individually or for periods of time to write uninterrupted.

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  4. What do you do to hold on to your writing dream while those all around you are losing theirs?

    Well, I make sure I am writing for myself, first and foremost. That takes the pressure off for me.

    It doesn’t matter what I am writing; so long as I know that at the end of it, there’s a reading audience somewhere who’ll appreciate the work I’ve put in.

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    • Morgan, I love your penname, based on Arthurian myth as it is. That Morgan Le Fay was a wily character, wasn’t she? Folks should click on your name above to see your site and your penname in full.
      Writing for yourself first and foremost is something I’ve gone back to. It’s where my heart is and where a lot of my talent is, I think. Following others’ suggestions may work but in the end, I must write what is true to me. And at the end if the audience is small, so be it. Mainly we writers must be happy with our work.
      Thanks so much for weighing in!

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  5. I’ve redefined my meaning of writing success. With over 8 million books on Amazon.com, the chances of my novel finding its way into the top 100 are less than .01%. I’m open to the possibility. After all, why not me? It has to be someone. That being said, I won’t let my happiness hinge on it. I have a wonderful job as a speech-language pathologist which pays the bills along with many extras. The 400 or so people who have read my first novel, A Stop in the Park, so far have given me beautiful compliments and have told me how it has inspired them to follow their dreams. I was able to see my Mom’s reaction when I gave her my book for her 80th birthday and saw how my 22-year-old son proudly posted it on his Facebook page, and so much more.
    Unless fate is very kind to me, I may have to wait until I retire to write full time and that’s just fine. Finding something I love, writing fiction, and having even a small number of people appreciate it is plenty to send my happy meter soaring.

    Great post, Elaine!

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    • Pegmmg, you said it very well. I love your final sentence. (well, before your lovely comment about my post.) There is something about setting oneself up for success or failure and you are definitely on the success road. Success as a person and even as a writer does not have to be measured in money, does it?
      Thank you so much for your comments!

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  6. Great topic, Elaine!

    Like Lorrie, I had more fun writing my first two manuscripts (unsold) when I held a full time job. And, I finished them more quickly.

    I went through a period when I didn’t know how to define myself after I left Corporate America, but — thankfully — that’s now behind me. I now engage in a variety of different activities where I interact with people daily b/c I draw energy from people.

    That said, it’s those two manuscripts I have to emotionally abandon in order to conquer my fear of failure of this third. Those first two were written in a state of unconscious ignorance — when I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Fresh voice? Yes. The agents I queried thought so. Likeable characters? Ditto. But, neither was good enough to carry a reader (or agent) through 90,000 plus words.

    My key is to give myself permission to write with abandon — without constantly looking over the pages for those flaws I unearthed in craft classes. I’m still working on that. But, getting closer!

    And, if this one doesn’t sell?

    I’ll write another one. I define success as spending quality time living vicariously through the eyes of some amazing characters, and, their [hubba, hubba] alpha males.

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    • Dear Gloria, your comments are always worthwhile, whether for their amazing humour or, in this case, their pure wisdom. No wonder you are such a happy writer. You’ve got it all figured out. Writers have to write. You keep going and I’m sure you’ll reach your goal. And maybe even a few alpha males will be along for the ride, if only in your books.
      Thanks for your words, Gloria!

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  7. Wow, Elaine, can’t wait to hear more about your chorus work. Sounds like a blast. You’re striking chords everywhere.
    I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 months averaging 3 blog articles/week to promote my first novel. With another coming in December, I’ve got to regroup and catch my breath for this next release. For promotion, I chose to focus on guest blog posts, Facebook and twitter and yes, it’s all consuming.
    I do feel like I’m running blind with no stats to rate the effectiveness of any of this. My publisher only issues statements twice a year, so I have to wait until next spring. This experience has been great. I’ve learned tons, but I can see why writers self-publish. Not just for the $$, but for control and instant feedback. Ultimately it could lead to major time savings.
    Writing the next book has to take priority. Sigh, getting on that!

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    • So glad to hear about book two in December. You’ll have to tell me what’s in store. Is it a sequel or a totally new scenario? And thanks, Sharon, for giving people an idea of what a published author’s life is like after that magic publish date. Control and instant feedback seem like pretty good incentives to me as I’m a bit of a control freak, as they say. Wow! Did I just say that out loud???
      I’ll be lining up to buy book two, you know that, don’t you?

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  8. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Elaine. Too many books, and not enough publishers. It makes for lots of rejections. But if you talk to authors who made it big when this was not the case, they all had rejections and struggles. Ours are just different. Why do I keep writing? Because it makes me happy. Even when it doesn’t. The idea of going and doing something else is so depressing, nothing about writing even comes close to making me that miserable. So what if there are imperfect days, weeks, please don’t tell me months! Regular jobs have those too, minus the joy of creation. I love writing and I hope someday to actually make a living at it. After all, like Pegmmg says, someone gets to be in the successful percentage. Why not me? Or you?

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    • Life is like that, isn’t it? I love my husband dearly and wouldn’t change him for the world but every once in a long while, I’m just not happy with something he does. (As I am sure he is with me often!) Does the down side make the total experience bad? Of course not, so your point about writing is absolutely bang on. And if we don’t experience the lows we won’t have as much pleasure in the highs.
      I love your point about comparing authors’ situations ‘back when’ to those today. Let’s all just stop worrying about selling and write the best darn books we can. And we write because we love it, selling doesn’t seem to huge.

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  9. I love the poem “If,” it is so true yet timely. I am new to the writing world and I already feel the pressure, just in the rewriting process. I love writing and creating new worlds and characters but restructuring everything is a different story – no pun intended. Although, it is a growing process for me, I plan to enjoy the ride. So, I will keep writing in order to hold on to my dream, keep writing, keep believing, keep progressing, continuously, never giving up and believing in me.

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    • I treasure my parents, Ireca, who gave me the most precious gift they could, self-confidence. And I see you have it, too. If we believe in ourselves and don’t let the naysayers drown our dreams we will succeed. Thanks so much for commenting here, Ireca!

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  10. Great post. Elaine. As writers, we are happy to write and then there’s that big scary publishing and marketing situation that often overshadows our happiness and overwhelms us. I loved the Chicken Soup series, I’ve been reading them since I was in middle school and reading can always be a good way to bring the passion back to writting.

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    • I wondered about putting in that reference to the Chicken Soup series but it has been so successful I knew everyone could relate. And your idea about reading bringing the passion back to writing is good. Do you ever find, though, that the things you learn about writing have changed the way you read? I find I’m more observant as to why the author put that bit in there and what that does to the plot line, and so on.
      Great to have your comments here, Nicole. Thank you so much! BTW I was in California last May and loved it. You are lucky to live there!

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  11. I really love writing. I’m a born story teller at heart. I’ve been at it for over sixty years now, starting when I was about eight years old. I never tried to get published until a couple of years ago. I wrote just for me. My dad was carer Navy as was I and we moved a lot. In the first thirty years of marriage, my wife (now of fifty years) and I moved something forty-six times. Every time we moved I would toss all those painstakingly written manuscripts that except for a few were never read by anyone but me. I bet I tossed fifty novels and a couple hundred short stories. Now I know a lot of them were trash, but there was some real pearls in there, too.

    The reason I had so many is as I say, I love to tell a story. But since I have started being published, eight books now, I write no where near as much as I did before and I am fully retired and writing in my job. But all the work of putting a book together, marketing it, and all the rest of the stuff that goes along with putting the story on paper is the PITS!

    I really hate doing that part of it. I put that off as much as possible but if you are going to write, and you want to become a known author, and make a little change on the side, you have to put up with the down side and that’s why I am one of the unhappy ones.

    The Dukester
    http://www.duke-davis.com

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    • Duke, thank you so much for visiting me here! I’ve noticed you on LinkedIn several times and love the straight-to-the-point style of your comments. About your tossing all those stories, my heart aches, but I understand your point. I wrote a very personal short story years ago which got a lot of positive comments but I never did anything with it. Somehow in one of my moves, I tossed out the file and I still mourn the loss. Sort of like working for three hours without saving and then suffering a computer kick. We get over them but we never really forget.

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  12. I’m just getting to this now as I haven’t been on the computer for a few days except once, when it froze and I had to turn it off. I enjoyed your post. I haven’t been able to do any writing lately except some revision, and comments on blogs, but when I do write, like you, I write for myself first and foremost. I enjoy the process and though I would love to be published and sell lots of books, it’s OK if that doesn’t happen. I guess I have been doing this long enough that I have learned to “be content in whatever circumstance” I’m in. Since I’m on pension now, the desperate need to earn more money has lifted and my time is more my own, I’m enjoying other things too. Next to the Lord and my intercessory ministry, writing will, I believe, always be my passion. If even one person reads what I write, whether blog post, article or book, and finds enjoyment or encouragement from it, I can be happy with that. Of course, I won’t refuse becoming a “famous” author, either! 🙂 By famous, I mean that people who know me will begin to recognize me as an author as well as just a relative or friend.

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      • Thanks, Elaine. Since Thanksgiving Day I have been moving furniture, and many other things, trying to reorganize my apartment and give Robyn, the young lady who has been living with me for the last year and a half, some extra space and storage in her room. [What a way to celebrate! I did have a great dinner at Robyn’s parents on Sunday. They are originally from Barbados so I got some Bajan food as well as traditional Canadian fare.] It has been a lot of heavy work and I have been worn out with it but it is making a real difference in my own space as well. I still have a ways to go yet, though, but I am feeling as if I have accomplished something. And the sore muscles aren’t quite so bad as at first. I just have to pace myself better so I can still move my body when I am through for the day. The old gray mare, she sure ain’t what she used to be! 🙂

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  13. Thank you, Elaine. Back in those days it was an old Remington typewriter and carbon paper. Such a messy proposition, I don’t miss that a bit. Now, I just like to power up the word processing side of life, turn on the Dragon Naturally Speaking, and start dictating my work. It’s so much easier.

    I tried rewriting one of the books I had done when I was about twenty-two or so. I just couldn’t get it back even though I remembered the whole story line, it just wouldn’t come out. There is a lot of truth to the old saying “You can never go back again.”

    Those words are gone forever.

    The Dukester
    http://www.duke-davis.com

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  14. Hi,
    One of the first poems that I learned by memory was Rudyard Kipling’s If. It stirred something within me and touched the core of my heart. If, by Kipling, and The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost led me down the road to encounter myself and therefore to find my own true happiness. They still do, and it is exciting for me when I encounter them at a crossroad of my life. You see, I don’t believe it is the fact of writing that makes people happy. If that were so, then, everyone working in his calling or trade would be happy souls.

    Throughout time new inventions and discovering the unknown have changed the course of life in some way or another. The locomotive did away with the pony express, which meant those pony express riders had to seek other forms of employment. If their happiness depended upon only being pony express riders, then they were in a sorrowful state. Or take a look at the method of travel across the ocean. There were ships sailing all around the world, but the air plane soon reduced the number of ships by becoming the best, shortest, fastest, and cheapest way to travel. Many people who were working on ocean liners lost their jobs to a faster mean of transportation and had to redefine themselves. If they based their happiness on working only on a ship, then they probably found it hard to be happy.

    What I am trying to say is even as writers, if we are basing our happiness on when we write or the price of our books or how many awards we have won, then we are a sad lot. Joy comes from within, from knowing that regardless of what I am doing, I am a valuable person who joyfully takes on change and learn how to master it. Nothing remains the same, not even for writers.

    I recently went to Italy for a week’s vacation. No writing, no MacBook, only my iPad to read when I had the chance, and no talking about my blogs, articles or books that I write. It was wonderful! I climbed mountains, not so high, but high enough to get a beautiful scenic view, sang with the Italians and did a lot of walking. These things regenerated the joy in me so that I am now able to come back to one of my first loves, which is writing. But to rekindle this joy within or fan it back to life, i had to be willing to change, to step back and discover something new.

    There will always be change, and it is my personal belief that writers like everyone else, are not protected from change. Every type of job, career or whatever comes up against change. When we learn how to accept change and move with it, we will discover the joy from within and open ourselves up to become better writers.

    Thank you my dear Lady, for such a wonderful article. It was nice to return and read one of your articles. It not only made me think but helped me to transition over into writing again.

    Love you, Elaine.

    Ciao,

    Patricia

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    • Well I for one am glad you had that amazing holiday away from your regular life. Your comment just gives me tingles, Patricia. Thank you so much.
      I never understand those writers who write every single day, no matter what or where. It just seems a little too dull for me. Like you, Patricia, I love to shake things up a bit. This may be why my to-do lists have such varied objectives on them.
      We are each different, though, aren’t we? And if someone’s preference is that regimentation, so be it. A lot of those same writers have had much success.
      Looking forward so much to hearing what fresh new ideas come from your rejuvenated and refreshed brain!

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  15. Great article, Elaine! It reminds me of something I read in the Anne Morrow Lindbergh book “Gift from the Sea” – a quote by Charles Morgan, who describes attaining an inner stillness so that we might be able to deal with all that goes on around us. Morgan states, “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still.”

    I think that we have to quiet ourselves so that we can discover what is important to us. I try not to take in the facts and figures of publishing because it causes too much “noise” around what I want to do, which is to write without static. If there is static or negative influences I would become agitated, depressed, get a “why bother” attitude about writing. So I have to quiet myself to these outside influences that might zap my energy and enthusiasm…which ultimately affects everything else in my life.

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    • We do need to hear that, Rita, and I, especially, must remember both your words and those of Charles Morgan. That image of the wheel speaks to me in my busy life.
      I do find, with all the varied projects both writing and non-writing on my lists, that I am able to block out extraneous things and concentrate on the task at hand. For instance, yesterday I had an executive meeting all morning for an excellent group of 800 members to which I belong. I had to be there by 8:30 a.m. and it’s an hour away. My preparations were the focus of the few days before, a couple of minutes here, a half hour there, until I had my committee reports finalized, my GPS programmed with the correct address, my various envelopes for others gathered together, and my identification pins ready and waiting. It’s called being organized.
      What I put out of my mind was my rewriting, my shopping list, my supper plans, my phone call to my daughter in Victoria, and an email to my husband away on a business trip.
      Until that big meeting was over.
      I quieted myself to do that event and afterwards I still put off my list. I needed to relax until my creative juices replenished.
      Reading both your and Patricia’s comments here today has really set me up for my writing this afternoon. I am stoked and ready to burn energy getting up a big head of steam. For those hours while I’m writing, I will keep centered on the task. And afterwards I’ll ease off while working on other projects. Thanks for your wisdom, Rita.

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