Friday, 19 December 2014

You're a writer? So what's that like?

I'm often asked what it's like being a writer, and why not, after all, it's a very glamourous occupation. Well, isn't it?

Of course it is. For example, I sit here, in my home office, in my slippers. I'm usually dressed in trackie pants and a scruffy old jumper. My hair is pinned up because it looks like a bird's nest and I never wear makeup.

Yep - I'm looking the goods!

Then, there's my office. I try to keep it tidy, but I'm fighting a losing battle there. My desk is a mess of reference books and loose sheets of paper with notes scrawled on them. I have a plate with the toast-crumb remains of my breakfast, a sports bottle containing water, a lip gloss, hand cream and one of those flippy-page desk calendars.

My in-tray is an assortment of opened and unopened mail, a folded, glossy map of Ancient Rome a set of knucklebone-jacks that I play with from time to time, and various bits and pieces that I can't find a more practical home for.

It is a comfy office though. I have a huge window that, in warm weather, I open up to receive a lovely breeze. Outside my window is a star jasmine that fills my office with a heady and summery perfume, and I have lots of little birdies that play among the leaves and chatter to each other.

Okay, so that's the luxurious office.

Now, how about the work? The work can be tough. I can sit here for hours, with fingers that can touch-type at the speed of light one minute, then seem to mysteriously detach themselves from their controlling nerve signals and manage only the odd typo at best or complete gobbledygook at worst.

Some days the words flow beautifully with a magic that seems divinely inspired. Other days the words come clumsily, I can't get my message across and no amount of chocolate seems to help.

I'm not wealthy so I regularly work as a freelance technical writer and my income is sporadic so I have to carefully manage my budget.

I leave my desk to put washing on the line, make another cup of coffee or move the cats' beds from room to room as they demand.

No visitors come to my door except the man who checks the gas meter and my neighbourhood is so quiet, the only sound is the yapping of fluffy little Finn next door when his mum goes to pick the kids up from school.

It's also a very scary occupation because you're putting so much of yourself into every word, line and page. Your emotions, your personality, your thoughts and feelings are on full display to friends and strangers alike. It's almost like walking down the street in the nuddie while people point and laugh at your jiggly bits.

Writing anything for public consumption is daunting and terrifying. You're exposing yourself, inviting critique that could be positive and glowing or ridiculing and embarrassing.

Alright then, there you have it - my job is not glamourous, I dress like a hobo, my office is cluttered, I live in fear, I struggle with my work, I'm not well paid, I have no friends or visitors and the dog next door has more excitement in his day than me.

So, why do I do it?

Well, that's the easy bit. You.

At a recent bookshop signing event for Inviolate (the sequel to my novel Torn), a lady practically bowled over a number of other customers to rush to tell me how much she loved Torn and couldn't wait to read Inviolate.

Reviews, like the one from Beyond the Bump, or from Good Gabble Book Reviews make my heart swell with gratitude. Then there are the other things like the interviews and the interest from newspapers, radio and magazines that show how much people enjoy my work.

It's not an ego thing, really it's not because friends and family will tell you how many years it took for me to agree to publish my books. I sat on the Torn manuscript for well over five years before my publisher could convince me to get it out there!

No, it's really about the amazing buzz you get when you know you're bringing happiness to people. Those of us who love to read, understand that unique, and very special feeling you get when you read a book that truly moves you, takes you to another time, place or world and enchants you unlike anything else.

That I can facilitate that pleasure in others is the most indescribable feeling. It's my personal high ... it's the reason I do it.

So when I'm asked what it's like to be a writer, that's my honest answer. And for anyone contemplating writing as a career, be prepared - it's a tough gig, but easily forgotten when emails like this come in:

  • Really love your books, Karen. You've researched so thoroughly. A real pleasure to read (17/7/2014) 
  •  Dear Karen, have just finished the book, just loved it, a real page turner. Awesome, congrats (6/5/2014)
  • Your books move readers and touch our hearts in many ways (24/6/2014)
This appeared on my facebook page just this week and I feel so blessed: 

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Just finished Inviolate after reading Torn a year ago. And so wrapped up in it I had to go back and read Torn again. And when I'd read Torn I immediately read Inviolate again!!! Loved them and thank you so much Karen.
PS this coming from someone who never reads a book for the second time!

Thanks everyone!

Until next week - read, write and love life!

At the Torn launch 2013 - happy readers make it all worthwhile!


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