Some weeks ago, a neighbour told me that she has observed I’m always in front of my laptop. She asked if I teach online classes. Well, I told her that I write, read and conduct research through the internet. Further questioning revealed to her that writing can actually be a source of income. But, like many people out there, my neighbour believed that being a writer comes with no price. To her, writing is a profession in which somebody can sit down in her house and make easy money. My neighbour actually said, “So you sit down in your house and make cool money without stress and without spending money?” Well, like I told her, only writers will understand how “easy” it is to write.
Like the Igbos say, “The snake seen by one person is always a python”. This saying is used to refer to the fact that only the person that wears the shoes knows where it pinches. Many people believe that writing is an easy thing to do. They thought it is just a matter of putting something down and pushing it out for people to read, after all they did composition in schools. With this ideology, this set of people easily condemn another person’s writing without critically analysing it or putting into consideration what it took the writer to come up with the piece. But when you ask them to draft their own “composition” they will find that hard to do.
This piece isn’t about complaining of those that don’t appreciate people’s hard work. The focus of this article is to expose to prospective writers some of the prices they will have to pay when they join the writer’s club. It is actually not meant to scare them away, but to get them prepared for the future.
For those aspiring to become writers, here are the prices you’re expected to pay in the profession.
- Sleepless Nights
There are several reasons why most writers hardly sleep at night. Some find night times as the best time to concentrate and write. Some face insomnia because they have ideas twirling around their minds and they’re trying to give it a solid form. Then there are writers that use night times to pursue writing gigs (especially when targeting foreign clients). Writers also experience sleepless nights because of anxiety caused by approaching deadlines or readers’ judgement. Actually, the reasons why writers experience sleepless nights are innumerable. But just remember when you find it hard to sleep at night that you’re not alone.
You might have an idea that you want to put down, but you need to carry out further research to make it concrete and relatable. Conducting research is challenging because you may find it hard to get what you’re looking for. Those of us that are mostly into academic writing and research may be frustrated to notice that no recent research has been conducted on the concept you’re writing on. This is more frustrating when a peer reviewed article you managed to find demands that you pay an amount that is ten times more than what the writing will fetch you. Or it could be that the respondents you approached decide to be difficult. Anyway, just bear it in mind that you must conduct research for almost everything you are writing about, irrespective of its genre. That it is difficult to obtain data is not anybody’s concern but yours.
- Concretising Ideas
Like I mentioned earlier, some sleepless nights come as a result of inability to concretise an idea. Sometimes you have a good theme to write on but you find it hard to even build an outline for it. You might finally develop its outline but still be unable to add flesh to the skeleton. This can be frustrating. However, the easiest way out of this is to put the idea down, do some mind mapping, and, if it still won’t take a solid form, keep it and come back to it another time. You actually don’t force an abstract idea into a piece of writing; if it’s not working, then leave it.
- Emotional Turmoil
Anxiety is the bane of every writer. If you must have noticed that most of these famous great writers from different parts of the world have suffered from depression at a certain time in their lives. The causes of these are numerous: it ranges from the fear of writer’s block to anxiety over critics’ unmerciful pens. Writers even suffer from the fear of missing deadlines and that of inviting public condemnation. To be a writer, you have to pay the price of unstable emotion – you laugh at one time, and cry at the next.
- Low Income
Writers are not rich people. I’m always blunt about this when people ask me how much I earn from writing. I don’t waste time telling them that my lecturing job pays my major bills. I know some people have been able to find their ways to the peak so that whatever they push out yields lots of income for them. But not every writer is that lucky. As a writer, you should be ready to wear yourself out in order to pay your bills. This is one of the costs of writing.
There are so many other prices writers pay. Like every other profession, it comes with its own occupational hazards. However, developing and improving on your writing skills can teach you how best to go about the job. But, you have to cut your niche if you truly want to be a successful writer. That way, the cost will not be too high.