The Never-Ending Job of the Writer

Photo credit: Kansas Poetry (Patrick) on Flickr
No one told me the truth about what being a writer means.

I’d been told more than once through my childhood years that I should be a writer, but even as I started to embrace the idea, no one explained to me what it really meant. Because as any writer knows, being a writer is more than just pumping out a poem, story or novel every once in a while.

When you’re a writer, you’re consumed by your passion. There isn’t an on-off switch. Writers don’t sit down and say, “Ok! Time to be a writer now!” then switch it off when it’s convenient. A writer is always taking mental notes for their current or upcoming work. When doing the dishes, driving, doing homework or going out with friends, a writer is watching, listening and feeling the world around them. On a day soaked with fresh rain, a writer closes her eyes and smells the air.

A writer always asks how would I describe this? Always.

You see, sitting down to write is only part of the job. A writer who doesn’t pay attention to the world surrounding them is missing out on a huge opportunity. I cannot stress this enough. This is HUGE.

Just think: How can your character describe the residual sting of a burn if you, the writer, have never been burned? How will your reader feel the chill of a winter storm if you, the author has never sat outside in January?

Last time I accidentally touched the side of the oven, as I ran my hand under cold water I closed my eyes and tried to come up with words to describe it. I’m not a masochist. I’m just a writer, and that’s what writers do.

I’m not saying if you’re a writer you have to experience absolutely everything your characters do—in fact if your characters are as tortured and punished as mine, I sincerely pray that you don’t. And I’m also not saying that when you get hurt you should sit there and describe how it feels instead of getting medical attention. (Please, please, please get medical attention immediately!)

What I am saying is the purest moments in your manuscript happen when you reach past imagination and make the moment real. When you pull that perfect detail from your experiences, that’s when the reader will sit back and say, “That’s what it feels like.”

When you’re a writer, your job is never over. A writer lives and breathes and feels everything around them until they find the right words for their work.

Then they sit down and relive them on paper.

Food for thought: What else is part of the 24/7 job of a writer?


Jennie Bennett said...

This is absolutely incredible, you have just sucked the thoughts from my brain and put them on paper. Thank you. I don't think anyone really understand the crazy things that go through a writer's head, but you have described it perfectly.
If you get a chance, hop on over to my blog -

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

Thank you! I'm relieved you felt I was able to trap some of the essence of being a writer in a post. :)

Rainy said...

This is a great post, Ava.

Don't stop with just the physical. Analyze people and relationships. Sure, you can take psych 101 (which I suggest for all fiction writers, anyway), but there's nothing like real world examples. Try to understand what drove decisions, how that felt, etc. It'll help create more dynamic characters, just as standing in the rain helps you create a more dynamic scene.

To answer your post question, I think marketing is part of a writer's 24/7 job. Not that you should be continually pitching, but always keep your eyes open to opportunities and keep your brain busy figuring out what's next.

Take care,


Gabe (Ava Jae) said...


I think you make a VERY good point, it definitely goes beyond just the physical. Great thing to keep in mind as we go through our day-to-day lives.

Especially nowadays, I agree that marketing has become a huge part of the writer's job, but I think beyond marketing it's also just being social and building up your base simply by being genuine. Though, I suppose that's technically part of marketing as well. :)

Kate DeAmour said...

Hi Ava Jae,

I love your blog because it is so genuine, that is a talent not everyone has. :) I'm not really a blog reader, but I can't help but coming back to yours. It is well written and a truthful open book to the life of a writer. Nice work. :)

As to the question, what else is part of the 24/7 job- working without immediate gratification. Almost the only job where you can work 80 hours a week and have people think you do nothing. There seems to be an idea amongst some people who don't write that writing is easy. And if you don't have a novel on a shelf at the moment, writing is your hobby. Ouch.

Not to mention unavoidable rejection, which is the opposite to immediate gratification. I don't know any truly successful writer that hasn't been rejected nearly a hundred times or more. It can be hurtful, shameful, and depressing, but as writers it's a part of the job and we have to ignore the knee-jerk reaction to take it personally.

This is why I think as a writer surrounding yourself with other writers is so important, because only writers understand the total all-in attitiude that goes with it. The work before the glory. It's a reminder that someone knows you are working your butt off. :)

So keep it up Ava Jae! I love the blog. :)


Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

Thank you so much for the kind words! Honestly you just made my night. :)

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that the lack of immediate gratification is part of the job and I think that's part of what makes it so difficult. Too many talented people give up because they get tired of the off-handed comments, the rejections and the badgering from their friends and family about when they're going to get published (or worse...a job?)

Unknown said...

Oh, jeez. Another wonderful post! I just have to say... you nailed it. I mean, I've never thought I'd read a pot as effortless and true as this one. Well, not never, but... well. It's blogging, lol. Anyway, Loved this: "when you reach past imagination and make the moment real" I'm tweeting this. You're making me a fan already. :)

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

Thanks so much for the support, Lyn! I'm thrilled that you like my blog and I certainly don't mind the tweets either ;)

As always, thanks for commenting!

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