January 19th, 2012 by HelenKay Dimon
Early 2012 Perspective

We are 19 days into 2012 and I’ve already seen the “writing is so hard that I can barely stand it” whine several times on author loops and twitter. To borrow one of novelist/screenwriter Chuck Wendig’s more colorful tweets from yesterday:

I’m amazed at writers who find zero enjoyment out of the act of writing. Why not just punch yourself in the junk drawer, instead?

First, let me be clear about one point – writing is hard.  It’s hard because you start with a blank page and everything that goes on it has to come from inside you.  No one else can do it for you and there’s no one else to blame.  It’s a combined brain and imagination release and some days it’s downright impossible. It requires long hours without a guaranteed return.  It’s a business where so much is out of your hands and working hard doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find success.

But it’s not coal mining.

My maternal grandfather worked in a mine in the coal region of Pennsylvania his whole life.  He saw friends and relatives die from accidents and complications from Black Lung. My grandmother worked in a factory, which meant long hours on her feet in not the nicest surroundings.  They were teen parents and college was never an option.  Their life was hard in the sense of being desperate and tough.

Contrast that with my day yesterday.  I sat around in lounge pants on my couch, drinking from a pot of tea while I tried to come up with a plot for a Christmas novella I was just asked to write. The most frustrating part of my day came from nursing a sick dog and the cat’s insistence that he throw up in one of the only two rooms in the house with carpeting. It’s true I wrote a proposal earlier in the week where every word took four hours (or so it felt) to get on the page.  Still, I did that while wearing pjs and pink fluffy slippers.

I’m not saying authors shouldn’t complain.  I love to complain so I would never deny anyone else.  But Chuck’s comment is one I want to keep in my head this year.  I write because I want to and am, for now, lucky enough to be able to do as my career.  I hate plowing through the middle of a book but love the promise that comes with starting one and the satisfaction that flows through me when it’s done.  It’s hard and some days it’s frustrating.  The promo stuff, frankly, sucks.  The uncertainty of this career can keep me up nights. Really, I could give you a list of the “cons” for a writing career.

Despite all that, I enjoy it.  Writing for a living makes me happier than I ever thought possible.  It’s not my old job as a custody trial lawyer or my grandfather’s job in a coal mine.  It’s a pretty great life and when the little annoyances pile up, and they will, I am determined to remember that I do this job because I love it…and I would be terrible at coal mining.

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21 comments to “Early 2012 Perspective”

  1. Jennifer Brooks
     · January 19th, 2012 at 10:52 am · Link

    HelenKay, thank you – I couldn’t have asked for a better pep talk.

  2. Andrew Mckay
     · January 19th, 2012 at 11:11 am · Link

    I write to escape reality. I love being in my own world. I love seeing the hero falling for another. I’ve learned that writing is hard, but I love a good challenge. 😈

  3. Jillian Stone
     · January 19th, 2012 at 12:32 pm · Link

    I LOVE to write. I love to dream up new stories and new characters. I just need more time. 😯 Working to tight deadlines with a myriad of interruptions (edits, proof pages, promo, twitter) is something I need some serious mentoring on.

    I worked in advertising and am very aware of creative burn out. I want to stay fresh and covet the time (we all need) to develop wonderful new material.

  4. Pamela Moran
     · January 19th, 2012 at 1:48 pm · Link

    If I fail to show up on the page, who’s going to make me? This is a business where I’m IT: Owner, manager, employee all wrapped into one package. If I spend my time whining, who is it that’s actually going to do anything to fix my issue?

    My paternal grandfather was also a coal miner — Southern Illinois. I’d much prefer the pjs and pink slippers.

    Wonderful post, HelenKay,


  5. MA Taylor
     · January 19th, 2012 at 3:57 pm · Link

    I write to keep myself out of jail or the funny farm.

    Writing allows me to explore all those emotions I deny having or don’t ‘get’. And, it allow me to give major payback to people who irritate the hell out of me. Seriously, where else can you kill all your major irritants and not go to jail.

    Disclaimer: Any similarities in my stories to real people is a total and complete coincidence.

    Great Post

  6. Selena Blake
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:00 pm · Link

    Amen, HelenKay. I’ve been thinking this for weeks! Why is it that writers (and I notice it’s often unpublished writers) complain so much about writing?

    I don’t begrudge anyone a good pity party, but come on. Write the darn book already. Stop daydreaming about it. Stop worrying about the right or wrong way. Forget about writer’s block and just start typing.

    I have never encountered a writing issue that couldn’t be fixed by putting words to paper. Often I’ll switch stories. I’ll write notes. Fill out character charts. Write a “test” scene. I’ll rearrange things. Whatever I need to keep moving.

    Writers may not be on their feet or hunched over dental chair all day, but writing is still hard work. It’s hard being creative and having all your words come together and make sense. Rejection is hard. There’s no getting around it. So accept it and write or stop complaining and don’t.

    End of rant.

  7. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:31 pm · Link

    You’re welcome! We all need a pep talk now and then. I know I sure do.

  8. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:33 pm · Link

    I think we enjoy the same things about writing!

  9. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:34 pm · Link

    Yes! Staying fresh – I think that’s the key. I have to think if writing becomes drudgery then the freshness goes away.

  10. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:38 pm · Link

    You have a great work ethic! I’ve seen it. Wouldn’t it be great if whining actually worked? Alas, no. It’s just wasted energy.

  11. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:41 pm · Link

    Yeeeeesssss. I get to be mean and a little violent and say the things I wish I could say to people in real life. It’s so cathartic.

  12. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 5:42 pm · Link

    I sometimes think folks believe writing should be easy. It’s not. It’s hard but if you’re lucky enough to do it and have people read & like your stuff, it is bliss.

  13. Angela McCallister
     · January 19th, 2012 at 6:45 pm · Link

    I don’t think those words would ever enter my gray matter, much less fly past my lips! The only thing I might say I hate is not having more time to write. Doing something you don’t enjoy takes too much energy to keep plugging away at it if you don’t have to. Besides, as much dedication as it takes to get published, loving to write is a job requirement.

  14. Diana Peterfreund
     · January 19th, 2012 at 7:37 pm · Link

    My grandfather was a coal miner in PA too. Anthracite or bituminous?

    There are things about this job that are emotionally very hard, so even though I know I’m so lucky about being able to do the whole fuzzy slipper thing, sometimes I consider giving it up to do the commute and office job just for a balance of sanity. Writing can be a very, very unhealthy profession. I get lonely, I get neurotic, I get anxious — these things didn’t happen when I worked in a cubicle.

    However, I also didn’t feel fulfilled while working in said cubicle. It’s a trade off.

  15. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 8:22 pm · Link

    I think that was part of Wendig’s point. Writing is hard nad exhausting and can mess with your head, so you need to love something about it to keep going. I agree!

  16. HelenKay Dimon
     · January 19th, 2012 at 8:31 pm · Link

    Anthracite. He was born, lived his whole life and died in Schuylkill Co, Pa.

    I totally agree with you about how unhealthy a career writing can be. For me, it’s the insecurity part. I was a trial lawyer and pretty good at it. Being good translated into something – partnership, winning cases, good decisions for my clients. I had confidence and knew what to do when. Writing is a totally different beast. I feel insecure all the time, not knowing if I’m any good or if anyone will buy my stuff. But, despite the downside, I still pick writing. I could go to an office and have more career (and emotional) stability, but I love writing. I love the freedom it gives me for other parts of my life.

    Seems to me writing is a career a writer picks and if someone hates it, like Wendig is talking about, and finds every minute awful, I’d hope they’d pick something else. It’s not a perfect career by any means, but it’s the career many people list as the “dream” career. There’s a reason for that. With all the choices authors have these days – traditional publishing, self-publishing, digital-first publishing – my answer is still the same. It’s not coal mining. It’s not factory work. It’s not for everyone but I don’t see it as drudgery.

  17. Cori C
     · January 20th, 2012 at 3:41 pm · Link

    So true. So inspiring. Thank you, HelenKay!

    I’m adding this to my favorite quotes of 2012:
    “When the little annoyances pile up, and they will, I am determined to remember that I do this job because I love it…and I would be terrible at coal mining.”

  18. Melissa Cutler
     · January 20th, 2012 at 4:26 pm · Link


    Thank you.

    Thank is all.


  19. Lisa Kessler
     · January 20th, 2012 at 8:19 pm · Link

    Great blog HelenKay!!!

    I would be a horrible coal miner! LOL

    I do worry tremendously, but I try to remember to keep my head down and write. Writing is the joy that makes the business worrying end worth it… :)

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Lisa :)

  20. Susan Burns
     · January 21st, 2012 at 8:20 am · Link

    Thanks for your view on things, Helen Kay.

    Your words speak the truth to me.



  21. Mary Galusha
     · January 22nd, 2012 at 12:56 am · Link

    I write because I can. I love the feeling of accomplishment when things go well. I think there is dread sometimes because of the fear of failure or to be honest, the fear of success.

    Also there’s no heavy lifting.


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