I’m in awe of authors. All of them — novelists, non-fiction writers, experts, short story writers, people who write cookery books, children’s stories and all the other types of books I haven’t mentioned. The life of an author is a rollercoaster, full of highs and lows, demanding in ways no other job can be.
But I particularly respect the many people who manage to hold down a full-time job or look after a family, or both, and still write a brilliant book — a novel, in particular.
Many writers of fiction have a problem with motivation. They find increasingly innovative ways to procrastinate, beyond the temptations offered by social media or friends or the relentless demands of the house and the family. The lawn needs mowing, the bins need cleaning, I need a new outfit/birthday/Father’s Day gift. I have washing, sewing, running, a meeting, the plumber, research, exercise, socialising, partying, charity commitments, dogs to walk — almost anything will do to delay the moment of sitting down to that empty white screen.
And yet. Amazingly, others have houses full of children, demanding jobs, elderly parents to care for and all the other pressures that life can throw at them, yet they still find the time to write. In between it all, they are sitting in the car at the school gates, using the spare fifteen minutes to get into the next scene. Their lunch breaks are spent typing furiously on a laptop or a mobile while in the café or the canteen. Once the kids are in bed, they start again, or they get up at dawn to do a few hundred words, or a thousand, before they get ready for work.
How do they do it? More to the point, I would say, why do they do it? In case you don’t know, it’s not for the money. It’s hard to make money as a writer. Like the majority of footballers or tennis players, many authors struggle to make enough to live on. That’s why we do other things, create other income to support ourselves. We don’t do it for the kudos, either. There are so many writers now, so much competition, it’s harder than ever to get published. Even if you are lucky enough to see your book on the shelves, to achieve good sales is a huge challenge.
No, they do it because they love it. We love it.
Why? Because writing fiction offers the freedom to be who you want to be, to visit places you’ve never been, to experience the unknown. There are few other ways to get inside somebody else’s head, to live someone else’s life, in safety, in the comfort of your home, your car or the local café. To create worlds, characters, situations, events from your own mind which transport you in a way that takes you out of your own life and into someone else’s. It’s incredibly exciting, it’s liberating. It’s awesome.