I’ve been speaking to a lot of writing students lately on storytelling, career paths, and writing as a profession. I’ve walked a rather, shall we say, convoluted path since getting kicked out of college with a B.A. in Mass Communications. So I’m never certain what I’m saying to these students is impressionable.
But then I got this bit of feedback from a student at my alma mater, Anderson University:
At last! Someone gets it! Now, I don’t actually come out and say, “If you don’t cut your own throat after a book or two, the publisher will cut it for you.” No, that would be too…brutally honest. And we all know that college is about living a blissfully surreal life—that’s what makes it so great.
But just about everyone outside publishing has a perception that novelists are living lives of unsupervised bliss—earning wads of money for basically sitting around in our pajamas, drinking endless cups of coffee (or something more “Hemingway”), rattling off brilliant bits of dialogue and sentences at will, throwing intense dinner parties for other, intense authors to engage in intense conversation.
None of that is true. Well okay…the pajama part might be true. And maybe the coffee. But the only people making wads of money are the publishers and your occasional John Grisham. And that sentence/paragraph you liked so much in my last novel probably took days to perfect. And I have yet to invite another author to a dinner party—although I would, if he was a comedy writer. No room for intensity at my dinner table.
I consciously try not to talk people out of becoming novelists. It’s their dream, so they should go for it. But I do try to clear up some of these fallacies before they get sucked into a business that is not designed to celebrate the author. Brutal? Yes. So now I’m off to Starbucks to commiserate over…coffee.