"I'm going to write a book". That's something I'm willing to bet my sandwich that almost everyone will say, or at least think, at some point in their life. It's an attractive, whimsical prospect. Imagine, you could be out by that lake, sipping peppermint tea, waxing lyrical about the heady swell of a summer breeze a la Colin Firth in Love Actually. Or mooning masochistically over muscley rebels of your imagination like the Brontes. Or even winding up a few institutions like Philip Pullman (high five Phil!)
It would be nice to write a book. I think I would like to be a novelist. You know, get my Byronic-Hero-ness on and live it up like its 1800 again... But it has always seemed like the craziest career choice. My teachers weren't exactly celebrating the idea when I mentioned it. "Why don't you be a journalist?" They would ask... well, Mrs Careers-Advisor, journalists generally can't invent Hobbits. But to be fair, they had a point. Wanting to write fiction should get you a free pass to the looney bin. The career choice is crazy.
I mean, one book just doesn't cut it these days. Everything has a sequel or is part of a series. You can't write a Catcher in the Rye and be done with it any more. When I was younger, for example, I thought Danielle Steel was many, many people with the same name, because I didn't think anyone wrote more than one book! (I was about 5, ok!) And I've often wondered how authors like Jodi Piccoult and Stephen King can publish so many books in a life time. How do they do it?! In my head, books take a lot of time to write! Maybe it's me... Maybe I'm misjudging what it takes to write a novel or over-analysing the process. But if I was faced with a 6-book deal, I would panic. What if I didn't have 6 ideas?! ("Well Emma," I hear you say... "This is how we ended up with the dirge that is titled New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn." And I would take your point and smile.)
Another thing that leads me to think "novelist" has a good reason not to be on the ticklist of career options at school is the lonliness. Writing is the most solitary thing I know. You wake up, you turn on the laptop (/pick up a pen if you're making a statement), avoid interruptions like they're the plague, drink inhuman amounts of caffeine that leads you to mumble instead of speak, and then you go to sleep again. The only people-contact you get is if you run out of Gold Blend (how very British, eh) and pop to the shop, at which point you still don't get a conversation because you're mumbling, remember? And if you start writing your epic at, say, 16... how will you ever find the love of your life you so furvently believe in? (as demonstrated by the 3 chapters of "legally different" Elizabeth/Darcy you've just sweat blood and real tears writing).
Next up is the high insanity risk, closely related (I'd imagine) to the above observation. If you have read The Shining or watched Secret Window you'll know what I mean. When your head is so often pre-occupied in a lone world where things can be whatever you want them to be, that's got to have an effect.
But theultimate reason being an author is a ridiculous decision? You'll spend all that life-time being a hermit and writing, with the fact that even Harry Potter got 12 rejections before it got published at the back of your mind. How much do you have to believe in your writing? a HELL of a lot. And what's the worst affliction of every writer? self criticism. The odds are, im afraid, STACKED against you.
And despite all this, I'd still like to be a writer, actually. Now... pen or laptop?
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Craziest career choice I know
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.