Things I Didn’t Know About Authors Until I Became One

It’s been four short years since I started writing, but I have learned so much in that time: interesting, eye-opening things, not the least of which is that Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones are a godsend and make you look and feel like a legit author. The following are some of the interesting things I’ve learned about authors:

 

They are regularly compared to J.K. Rowling. Or at least they are pre-book release. Flattering right? And not realistic. ‘But it could happen!’ people say. Well, sure, I guess. You could also be the next Bill Gates of computer programming, the next Florence Nightingale of nursing, or the Judge Judy of law. But probably not. And though the commenters are well meaning, it’s stressful thinking that your family and friends are measuring your success in terms of movie deals and theme parks.

 

They deal with rejection too. You’d think that signing a book deal with a major publishing house would mean the end of rejection as a writer, right? Wrong. Even New York Times Bestsellers are subject to rejection. Publishers want to put out books they think will sell. It doesn’t matter if they liked one of your books. Your next book still needs to be marketable in their eyes or they won’t want to publish it. Unless you’re Stephen King or the aforementioned J.K., in which case you can probably write on a napkin and they’d sell it.

 

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Sweatpants are their friends. Writing a book seems pretty glamorous, until it’s 4 p.m and you still haven’t showered, your house looks like it’s been recently burglarized, and you fridge is reduced to only condiments.

 

They don’t always like writing. If authors waited until they were ‘in the mood’ to write, they might never complete a book. The harsh reality is this: writing a book is hard, and watching Teen Wolf isn’t. A lot of the time, it feels more like a sacrifice than it does like fun, but then again, it wouldn’t be a big deal to write a book if it were easy and all that jazz.

 

 

Procrastination is a plague and everyone has been infected. You click over to Google to do a simple fact-check for your book and the next thing you know you’ve fallen down a Wikipedia wormhole and it’s two hours later. And it’s not just me. There’s a reason programs like Freedom exist. Writers are basically like cats and the internet is a laser light on the wall: it’s irresistible.

 

They’re as insecure as you are. Are insecure people more drawn to writing, or does publishing turn normal people into insecure messes? I don’t know, but the fact remains that writers are often not as confident as they outwardly appear. They worry their latest work sucks. They read over their first drafts and wonder who was on crack when they gave them a book deal. They read a hundred great reviews and then spiral into depression at the one scathing one-star review they totally accidentally stumbled across on goodreads, sure that it’s the only ‘true’ review and that the other hundred people are either illiterate idiots, or are confusing your book with another one they read that didn’t totally suck.

 

They don’t have time to write books. One of the most common things I hear as an author is ‘I wish I had time to write a book.’ But here’s the thing: authors don’t have extra hours in the day, and most of the time, they’re working a day job too. Even those who write full-time, and therefore, theoretically, have more time to write, often have difficulty squeezing hours into the day to dedicate to their novel. So many things can get in the way of a productive day of writing, from copyedits or pass pages on a previous book, to blog interviews or simply responding to emails: tasks pop up all the time that steal precious writing hours. Authors just make writing a priority in their lives.

 

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They like fan mail as much as readers like their books. Before I became an author, I read a book called Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren and loved it so much that I wrote the author a gushy email wherein I told her that I snuck her book into the bathroom because it was the only free time I had with a new baby at home. Not only did she write me back, despite the email being awkward and weird and it being the holidays, but she was so kind and sweet. At the time I thought, wow, that was so great of her to respond to her annoying fan! (Read earlier: insecurity). But now that I’m an author myself and have been the lucky recipient of fan mail, I get it: authors don’t find your fan mail and tweets and Tumblr asks and Facebook comments annoying. They like fan mail as much as their readers like their books. A gushy email from a reader is a day-maker.

 

They are all different. Fast-drafting, slow-drafting, outlining, pantsing, writing every day, writing in bursts and taking breaks—practically every author I know does it differently, and that’s okay. There is no one ‘right’ way to write a book, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a lying liar who lies. It doesn’t matter how the book gets written. The important thing is that it does get written.

 

Jealousy is a thing that happens. And I’m suspicious of anyone who claims otherwise. I’m not talking about arch-nemesis type of jealousy, though I’m sure that type exists too, but envy of people you like, respect, and call your friends. It’s hard to see others get what you want, and things like Amazon Rankings, bestseller lists, and even Top Ten Tuesday and Waiting on Wednesday posts, which sort of pit authors against each other, can make jealousy inevitable. That’s not to say that it’s okay or anything, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Having said that:

 

They’re like family. The old saying is that writing is a solitary act. I’d like to amend that to: writing is a solitary act unless you’re a YA writer. Are adult writers great buds with each other too? Maybe. I can’t say. But I do know that the YA community is like a family—a family full of smart, kind, thoughtful, opinionated, hilarious people who support each other and generally procrastinate together a lot on Twitter. In fact, I’m going to go to that now.

 

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13 Responses to Things I Didn’t Know About Authors Until I Became One

  1. Lisa Maxwell says:

    Amen to 110% of this (<– Bad at math).
    Especially the Bose Headphones. And the insecurity. And the jealousy…
    But mostly the headphones.

  2. Janet Gurtler says:

    This is so great! And so true! Great post!

  3. Lynne Matson says:

    THIS. A MILLION TIMES THIS. :) LOVE!!!!!!!! So true Michelle!!:) xoxo

  4. Jenn Marie Thorne says:

    Yes yes yes to all of the above! Especially the family part. That’s been the nicest surprise of all.

  5. fantastic post that made me laugh and i resemble much of it – except i may be found in pjs more than sweatpants.

  6. I’m still working on getting an agent and looking forward to some of the stuff you mention in this post (although people already say things like, “You write novels? Wow! You could be the next J.K. Rowling!”. Ha!) I use earplugs to block out distractions (I’m ADD like so many creative people), but the headphones sound awesome! Thanks for a great post!

  7. Krystal Jane says:

    This is such a great list! Proud sweatpants wearer here. ^_^

  8. lisa says:

    You are a doll! It is a treasure every time I see one of your blogs in my email. I’ve been writing the same book for 20 years (how’s that for procrastinating?) and it helps to know other authors suffer too. And just the kick in the pants I need to get back to it. Thanks!

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