Writing is a horrible profession. Being a writer isn’t the kind of work that you can leave behind at the office, relegating the stress to the desk and reserving the night to yourself. A writer’s mind is always active, always ready to observe in the background. “Was that a new turn of phrase?” “Is this a special moment, a plot point in my life?” I suspect this is why so many writers are driven to drink: They desperately want that nagging voice to finally STFU.
There is a school of thought that the people are born writers—that some have to be writers and would unhappy otherwise. There’s no doubt that some writers believe this is the case in the same way that others insist that they were born to be fashion designers. But this is more a function of self-perception than of any innate destiny. If the theory held true, such children of fate would be perfectly content once they became writers—but I’ve yet to meet any writer who actually was. A Zen state of mind and a dedication to the written word are never found together.
But despite the whining and hand-wringing, despite the absolutely constant stress, there are many reasons why being a writer is truly a wonderful profession. It’s an unfortunate thing that good writing is often so heavily correlated with suffering and despair, as if writing about happiness and good things is less serious or somewhat embarrassing. If we could pause our pretensions for moment, we’d realize that there are many things that every writer can be thankful for.
1. You’re immortal.
That book or article you’ve written will be around long after you’re gone. Sure, it might just be collecting dust on a shelf or remain unread in some website’s archives. But you and you alone brought something into being. That something could not have existed without you; literally no one else could have done it. All any person can do is to leave the world a little bit better of a place than they found it. Writers nudge the human race forward—and backward—ever so slightly.
2. Everyone believes that you’re smart.
Writers, lawyers, doctors—these are a few careers which are universally viewed as being composed almost exclusively of intelligent people. Of course this is nonsense, for morons can even ascend to the presidency itself. But when people learn that you are a writer, a certain cachet of wit and sophistication immediately comes with it. Don’t mind that it is unearned; be thankful for it all the same.
3. You’re not on the clock.
Remember that first job, when coming in late was grounds for getting fired? At the very least, it was a bad thing never to be repeated, no matter what the cause for the lateness. Well, guess what? You don’t work like that anymore. Your writing is due by a certain date. Your schedule is your own. Want to work through the weekend? That’s fine. Feel like taking a day off? That works, too. Not only does no one need to know your schedule—no one cares. Just have your work ready when you said it would be, and your life is your own to live.
4. You don’t need two wardrobes.
Most people need to have clothes for work and clothes for after hours. Not writers. Sure, there will be more professional and less professional items of clothing in your wardrobe, but as a whole you can buy virtually anything to wear that you like. If you’re a guy, go get a suit and strut around. For you, it’s a sign of accomplishment and not of corporate submission.
5. You can have weird hobbies.
Listen to Swedish indie pop. Fill your house with orchids. Only wear the color blue. As a writer it’s a given that you’re a weirdo, and you can feel free to indulge in the most idiosyncratic things and have no one bat an eye. You can even get paid for writing about your hobby. After that, you can get paid for writing about people’s reactions to your hobby. The weirdness pays for itself!
6. You never need to be bored.
Go to anywhere where there are lots of people, and watch them for a little bit. Your mind can write a whole story about them, and you can even edit as you go. In fact, a good writer will make most people seem far more interesting than they actually are. We draw out or invent their most salient qualities and dismiss the rest. Hate being around other people? I hear you. Go to a museum and be inspired by the paintings. For the non-representational stuff, be inspired by the artists themselves.
7. You’re a winner.
Writing is an extremely competitive career goal. It’s very difficult to convince someone to pay you to write, since in one sense everyone knows how to write starting from elementary school. To pull something like this off even once is a feat. To sustain this over years, to pay your rent (or even buy a house) through your writing marks you as having succeeded where so many others did not. Be thankful for that. They’re the turkeys of this season and you’re not.