NON FICTION: The Problem With Being A Writer

Boss and employee

I’ve started putting down books more lately. I’ll give them one chapter of boredom before I cut my losses and move on to the next book. I used to be a completionist when it came to reading, but as I grow older, I realise how little time I have to read all the books I want, so I’m learning to be more meticulous with my reading time.

It’s not the books, it’s me. I’m aware that different authors have different styles, and not all of them are going to suit me. I’m fine with that. The literary world is entirely subjective, and the path to bestsellery often consists of just craft and luck—both unmeasurable.

It’s Art

And that’s the exact problem of working as a writer. Everything’s subjective. It doesn’t matter if you’re working under an editor, in a creative team, or for your freelance clients. Your work will always be judged through a veil of your audience’s viewpoints and prejudices.

You’ll find people who’ll hate—and I don’t mean a general dislike—your very own idols who you take after. You’ll have colleagues who’ll think Pratchett is drab, or that Hemingway is boring, and don’t even get them started on the classics.

And these people might very well be the ones you’ll have to work with in the publishing industry.

Of course, as a creative, you do have to take your audience’s thoughts into account. Because what good is art if it’s not shared? And why bother sharing your work if you don’t have an audience in mind?

As a bare minimum, you’ll also have to be technically sound. Fortunately, the road to proficiency in writing is surprisingly short. Oftentimes, basic grammar and spelling is enough to tell a good story. If you haven’t yet mastered the basics, like the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’, then you best start polishing your craft before you try taking it up as a day job.

Voicing Out

What’s left, then, is your style, or voice. Not everyone’s going to love it, but I find it hard to believe that you won’t find fans among the seven billion people on earth right now.

The problem arises when you work with someone who hates your voice. I’ve had the privilege to work with a great number of editors and bosses, and most of them have left a positive mark in my journey to improving my craft. But there are a handful of people who I just couldn’t see eye to eye with. A senior colleague (he wasn’t even my boss) who was adamant I didn’t start sentences with conjunctions being one such person.

When it comes to working with someone with different stylistic perspectives, the best option would be to find a new job, because it’s not worth being told you suck on the basis of you having a different voice.

How often are you going to justify not picking the world ‘turf’ instead of ‘grass’? And how are you going to make a sentence ‘sound better’ or ‘less clunky’ when the one you’ve written was the best you could come up with?

I’ve been through these situations before, and let me tell you that sticking it out does nothing for your craft or your future. And when I first started out on this journey without knowing any better, I would’ve actually took every piece of ‘advice’ to heart, including not starting sentences with conjunctions.

Look Out For Number One

All this isn’t written from a disgruntled writer’s perspective either. Having to proofread various advertising copy, scripts, and articles have given me a taste of what it’s like on the other end of the Word document. And I can tell you that it’s totally possible to not be an asshole of an editor. If your boss hates your work, and all the feedback you receive is ‘it’s not good enough’, just leave.

I’m telling you this because I’ve seen otherwise good writers who’d just lost interest in their craft, out of the sheer punishment they were receiving at their day jobs. Their bosses would rewrite their entire article just to make them sound better.

They’d be overlooked for promotions, and they’d be the last person picked to go on important assignments. I thought these exact same writers were awesome. So go figure.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Perhaps you’re working in a publication you’re proud of. Maybe your boss is someone you look up to. All these are good reasons for sticking it out and listening to their critique for your personal growth.

Make A Choice

But if you’re just sitting through another publishing gig and you just don’t share the same creative vision with your editor, then just do yourself a favour and find somewhere you’d thrive in.

Because at the end of the day, you’ll be left with the consequences of your own choices. Do you find joy in being able to pay the bills? Or does giving your passion a fair try much more important to you? There’s no right or wrong answer here—it all differs from person to person.

I did mention that you have to have an audience in mind when creating your work, and this one’s meant for all the struggling writers who are still finding their footing in the industry.

You can choose to put down the book and start a new chapter in life. As long as you’re constantly trying to improve and want to make this your life’s purpose, don’t let anyone else tell you how to write your life.

Also, don’t quit your day job if you have to make rent.


I’m a struggling writer myself, so if you liked this piece, do go ahead and like my Facebook page or follow this blog!

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