Writing is Hard, But Not Writing is Even Harder

(I wrote this last Friday.) I should be writing my new novel, The Shoestring Proposal right now. But I’m not feeling great, I’m low on energy – in a word I’m grumpy. I’m finding it hard to settle to anything and all I want to do is to go back to bed and sleep.

But I can’t. Because I have to show up at work. If I don’t, the book won’t get done and I’ll get behind and I’ll get even more grumpy and fed up. So I’ve dragged myself to the computer and I’m now about to get back to writing. I’m at 60,000 words, so ¾ of the way there, and the final chapters are usually easier for me as I know my characters inside out by this stage of the story, and I also know how I want to end the book. Getting to that end will be the interesting bit.

Writing is not easy, especially when the only person forcing you to the desk is yourself. And sometimes it’s not a good idea to make yourself work when your heart isn’t in it, it can come across in the work. But today is different. I haven’t written for a whole week, and if I don’t write today I know I’ll feel guilty all weekend. I need to put in a good writing week next week, at least four days at the desk. And in order to do that I need to write something today, anything, to get me back on track and living in my book again. Not writing makes me twitchy and unbalanced, and it also makes me feel horribly guilty.

Full time writers have the luxury of more time at the desk. But in the case of genre fiction (and increasingly all kinds of fiction), writers have to produce at least one book a year. This year Melissa Hill produced two books – one romance and one crime. Last year I published four books – three for children, one for adults. It’s a busy, busy life and writing to a strict deadline can be stressful.

Writers also have other commitments – websites to run, blogs to write, Twitter and Facebook to upkeep, festivals to talk at, schools to visit, interviews to give (and during publication month, this increases x 100), emails to answer from readers, and the whole admin side of things – emails, letters and phone calls from editors, agents, banks, accountants . . . all the things that make up a normal working person’s life in fact. There is a huge (and increasing) amount of paperwork.

But here’s the thing – it’s not as hard as getting up at 5am to cook breakfasts in a café, or housekeeping in a hotel, or waitressing for a pittance, or spending all day on your feet in a bookshop, or minding young children, or trying to sell long distance telephone lines to people who slam down the phone on you – some of the jobs I’ve had before writing full time. Writing is mentally draining, yes, but you are your own boss, you are doing something you love, and the book world is full of interesting and passionate people, especially the children’s book world.

And above all I am hugely privileged to have readers who care enough to buy the books in the first place and then write to me, thanking me for giving them another story to get lost in. So for these reasons, I am going to give myself a good shake and turn up at the page. Because writing is hard, but not writing is even harder.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

PS Despite everything, I managed 2,000 words and I feel much better for it – see, writing really can be magic.