There really is no life and no career like the writing life. Where else can you be rejected on a regular basis, underpaid as a rule, and continually be told by a series of agents, editors and publishers that your work isn’t quite good enough? Not only that, but you keep coming back for more punishment.
I have been a freelancer for more years than I choose to remember and I have the scars, mountain of reject slips and paltry bank account to prove it. But yet, every single time I have sold a piece and every time I see my name in print or in the Internet, I could just about burst with joy. I am a writer, and like Johnny Esau used to say on the ‘World Wide of Sports”, I’m in it for the ecstasy of victory and more likely, the agony of defeat.
Obviously this says something quite disturbing about my mental health, but I’m okay with that too. I would rather be writing than doing just about anything else. And I accept the roller coaster ride, both emotionally and financially that entails. I am an even happier old sod since I finally discovered the magic of fiction writing.
Freelance writing is about research and deadlines and meeting the needs of the almighty editor. Fiction writing, at least for me, is like turning on the hot water in the bath. I get into the current of imagination and creativity and I feel great. Yes, I have research and deadlines and editors to deal with, but somehow I don’t mind that either, as long as I can soak in that hot water for just a few more minutes.
I should confess that I am a ‘pantser’. I have no idea where the story is going or how it will end. But, that’s the whole fun of it. I get to pick the beginning and find the characters, wherever they might be hiding out. Then the characters show up and tell the story. I just write it down. Yes, it’s hours and hours and hours hunched over a computer and many, many rewrites after I let my trusted beta readers loose on the drafts. But it still beats all other forms of working for a living.
I can’t tell anybody else that the writing life is right for them. You do have to have a thick skin, bear your writing scars and rejections with dignity, and be prepared to lower your financial expectations for more than a considerable period of time. But if you feel like you want to write, why not try it, part-time to start. Write a short story about how the dog ate the turkey last Thanksgiving, or Uncle Bart’s off-colour wedding jokes, or how a teacher helped you get through Grade 10 math.
Or you can just start a bath and sit in it for an hour and let your imagination run wild and free. Then write down a little bit of what you imagined. Then commit to writing 15 minutes a day for a month. The next thing you know you have 22,000 words and the makings of your first book. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. If you are a writer you were born to write. And if you are a writer, there’s no life like the writers life.
Mike Martin is the author of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery set in Newfoundland. The first book, The Walker on the Cape was released in 2012. The second, The Body on the T, came out in 2013 and was just released in e-book formats in September, 2013.
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The Body on the T is available from Chapters.ca at
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