Top 10 Reasons Not To Be A Writer

Top 10 lists are pretty popular these days. Do we have Letterman to thank for that? Anyway, in the interests of being in with the popular crowd, here’s a Top 10 list that seems blatantly obvious to me, but might serve as a warning to others. And before anyone accuses me of being all jaded and defeatist, I prefer to look at it as arming myself with the truth in order to beat that fu**er down and prove every point on this list wrong. Wish me luck.

Top 10 Reasons Not To Be A Writer

10. For the chicks. Generally speaking, being a writer doesn’t get you chicks like being a rock star might.

9. For a sense of self-worth. Seriously, almost constant rejection is not good for self-esteem.

8. For the cool. Most people, when you say you’re a writer, will look at you with that when-are-you-going-to-get-a-real-job look.

7. For the influence. No matter how much we think we’re changing the world, people are pretty fixed in their own personal delusions. Anything we write is unlikely to affect them much.

6. For self-fulfilment. This one is slightly off-kilter. We require the self-fulfilment of writing, but most writers I know are rarely happy with what they put out there and constantly bemoan how crap they are and how they wish they were better. I’m like this. We’re all a bunch of fragile little flowers.

5. For the fame. There are a handful of uber-bestselling writers that you might recognise if you passed them in the street, but not many. Have a look along your bookshelf and think about how many of those names have a face attached in your memory banks.

4. For health. Sitting in a gloomy room hunched over a computer, spewing forth imagination from the deepest recesses of your mind. Not exactly a jog along the beach, is it.

3. For a social life. See above. I have to admit that there’s a vibrant community among genre writers in Australia, and presumbly elsewhere in the world. I’ve got some great friends that I’ve met through being a writer. We only tend to actually meet a handful of times a year, though, at conventions.

2. For the satisfaction. You’ll never be happy with what you achieve as a writer. Sell a short story? You’ll wish you could sell to a better magazine. Sell a novel? You’ll wish you got a bigger advance. Got a great big advance? You’ll wish you were higher on the bestseller lists. I’ve never met a writer yet, at any level of success, that is satisfied with their achievements. They’re all mighty happy to have got where they are, but they all want to achieve more. Every one of them.

1. For the money. Yeah, as if this needs explaining. There doesn’t appear to be any. Anywhere. This is the one thing on this list that I’d most like to prove wrong.

There are a handful of rock-star-god-emperor authors out there that prove every single one of these points wrong. People like Neil Gaiman or Stephen King. But for every Neil Gaiman, there’s a million mid-listers struggling to get by. And for every mid-lister like that there’s a million more hard working writers, wishing they had that mid-list level of success.

The truth is that there is only one reason to be a writer. Because you have to. We all do it because we have stories to tell and we can’t imagine not writing them down. If we can sell them, bloody brilliant. If we can sell them and have any kind of effect on people, fucking spectacular! But the single reason we do it is because we can’t not do it. Any other reason and you’re deluding yourself. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.


This is a cross-posting from Alan Baxter‘s The Word blog.