A YouGov survey has revealed that the most desired job in Britain is that of an Author (followed closely by Librarian and Academic). This despite the fact that the average wage of an author is said to be £11,000 a year (and how many of us read that amount and thought ‘I wish!’?)
In response, Chas Newkey-Burden (great name!) has come up with 14 reasons not to be a full time author. I was nodding along to most of them, and there are times the job is tough, like when the words don't come or you haven't sold anything for a while, but I can also think of lots of reasons being an author really is the best job ever.
These are my reasons. I’m sure you have your own. Feel free to share them in the comments.
- You are your own boss. You start when you want, and deadlines notwithstanding, you finish when you want. That’s not to say that writing isn’t hard work. When I’m in the grip of a story, I can work until I’m literally dropping from exhaustion. But it’s a good sort of exhaustion, and much better than the stress I used to be under when I worked as an advisor for a charity, often finishing late because once people turned up for advice, pouring all their anguish into you to add to your own hang-ups, you can’t (and shouldn’t) turn them away.
- You take holidays when you want. If I decide I want to go off for a couple of days, I can just do it. I don’t have to clear it with anyone (again deadlines notwithstanding).
- You can stop for a cuppa whenever you want. There are no designated tea breaks or lunch hours. You pick your own hours, and if you decide to slink off to the kitchen for a bit to get a drink and a snack, there’s no boss looking over your shoulder. You can choose to work all day, or into the night. It’s your call.
- Whilst it can be a lonely job, you do get to meet some fantastic people, who help and inspire you. Since I started writing, I’ve found some of my best friends ever, and my work on the Romantic Novelists Association committee, organising the parties, has helped me to meet many more. As someone who could have been agoraphobic given half the chance, this is a Good Thing for me.
- You’re on your own. That’s not a bad thing for everyone. Writing is a solitary job and if you’re a solitary person, that might be just what you need. I have a need to be alone at times, and get quite antsy if I can’t be. When I started writing, it was an escape from the bustle of family life. Apart from everyone turning up in the bedroom for a chat (see previous blog post) it meant I had time to myself in which I could breathe and just be me.
- You get to make up stories all day. How cool is that? It’s like being a child and having daydreams, only now you can turn those daydreams into stories and maybe earn some money from them. You can lose yourself in your own fictional worlds, with characters that you care about and it’s allowed because you’re an author.
- You decide what you write and when (within reason). If you’re in a day job and working on a project, you have to see it through to the end, even if the outcome isn’t what you hoped for. With writing, if something doesn’t work, you can scrap it and start again. This is, again, within reason. If you have a contract and your editor is expecting a novel about the human colony of Mars, and you’ve scrapped it to write about the existential musings of a mouse living in Prague, then you might have problems. But mostly the choice is yours.
- Seeing your work in print for the first time, with your name on the cover of a book, is the best feeling ever, and it never gets old. It’s proof that you, who didn’t do well at school and was voted most likely to die in a bedsit, having choked on a tin of prunes, have actually created something that someone else felt was worth publishing.
- Five star reviews from someone who isn’t actually related to you. They’re brilliant. 1 star reviews sting, true, but a five star review from a complete stranger sweeps all that pain away.
- Someone is reading your work, and, hopefully, enjoying it. That means you’re giving someone the same pleasure from reading as you got from all those nights under the cover with a torch (reading, you dirty minded lot!)
- You have an excuse for being a bit vague. ‘Oh, she’s artistic’, they’ll say, so you can get away with forgetting to turn up for things you didn’t really want to do anyway. When my husband’s club needed someone to make sandwiches for an event recently, one of the other wives said to me ‘Don’t worry. We’ll do it. You stay home and write.” Result! (I hate making sandwiches)
- When the royalties, PLR and ALCS payments come in. Okay, they might not keep you in a manner to which an Arab Sheik becomes accustomed, but it’s still a thrill to get them and pretend that, for a short time at least, you’re in the money. And as a friend has just said, some writers do make a good living, even if they're not writing best-selling novels. We're not all starving in garrets.
- When people come up to you, with your book in their hand and say ‘Will you sign this for me please?’ What else can I say but that it’s a fantastic feeling?
- It makes me happier than any job I’ve ever done. Okay, I’m not rich. I’m not a well-known author. But when I’m writing, I’m really happy. When I’m not writing I get depressed, because I have no outlet for my vivid imagination that doesn’t involve pretending to everyone that I am Grand Duchess Anastasia who was cryogenically frozen and then brought back. And people don’t like you when you do that.