Being a Writer Is Hard

tired student girl with glasses sleeping on the books in the library
tired student girl with glasses sleeping on the books in the library

CREDIT: Joan Erakit

I think I finally understand why my father pretty much lost his sh*t when I ever so cowardly confessed that I wanted to be a writer.

Standing in our living room in the summer of 2011, and with my heart beating widely, I tearfully shut down all of my father's political dreams for me. I wanted to write, to tell stories and to spend the rest of my days buried deep in books. No, Public Administration and teaching were of no interest to me, but Toni Morrison and Alice Walker were. Raymond Carver too.

He was disappointed of course, and in a fit of rage for disobeying his wishes, he told me that I would suffer for the rest of my life because writing would never bring me any sort of fulfillment.

And maybe he was right.

It's been about a year since I relinquished any desire to pursue a professional career and just sit in front of my computer, writing. Of course, I've had quite a few diversions - working as an assistant, consulting on projects, freelancing -- all to keep the lights on and indulge in my expensive wine and shoe habit.

I've been writing a book I love for about a year now and it's been utterly and so ridiculously brutal that each week, I come close to tossing my MacBook out the 4th floor walk-up that has become my only pride and joy.

Writing is a lonely existence because one is almost always, living in their own head.

Not even my closest girlfriends could ever understand the doubt and self-deprecation that goes on between the hours of 9pm and 5:30am. Or the cigarette and whisky issue that I tenaciously try to hide. There's also the embarrassingly horrid tendency to miss deadlines - especially if I'm writing about something that lacks... fire. We should also not forget the lack of inspiration and focus disease, or if I may, the virus known to every human being as 'writers-block.'

There are of course, the beautiful scars that I get to share every once in a while; pieces of writing that to me, express exactly how I feel and share sentiments that I find so hard to deliver when in conversation.

Lately, I've been so wrapped up in writing long winded essays and emails (I'm sorry buddy -- your patience is forever appreciated) that I can only think in lists.

Permit me to demonstrate the 10 hardest realizations one will inevitability encounter as a writer, and why it's probably better to go to college, find a job that pays you to attend mindless meetings and enjoy that lucrative benefits package.

CREDIT: Joan Erakit

10. You distrust those who don't read. It makes no sense to a writer when approached by an individual who proudly declares that they do not read. Personally, I file them away as senseless people whom I will never discuss anything more than the weather, the drink list and directions to the nearest subway station.

9. Editors are every writer's worst nightmare. Look, all I know is that the comments section of every Word document sent back to me is like a long prison sentence for a crime I committed and forgot all about. Though their function is undeniably the key ingredient to a successful career in publishing, one will always view them as the disapproving headmistress of some posh boarding school.

8. Being long-winded is second nature. I am no stranger to turning the regular email into a novel. If writing were some French film about love and sex, I would be the naive American girl who leaves nothing to the imagination and bares all immediately.

7. You over analyze every text, email and/or letter sent to you. Because one must understand that as a writer, reading between the lines is one of the things we do quite well. Or it could also be that because we often put subliminal messages in all our work, we simply feel that everyone else is doing it too?

6. Substance abuse is real. I hope to be as gentle with this subject as I can be not to embarrass my best friend, but the reality is that writing and the drinking of alcoholic beverages go hand-in-hand. Admittedly so, my best pieces happened whilst sipping a glass or two (or more) of red wine. Just ask any bartender in Harlem.

5. Love is harder for writers. Oh but it is! Just look at Jane Austen, Hemingway or Henry Miller -- a myriad of affairs, failed marriages, broken hearts and the fear that one will never truly find someone who "gets it." So far, I have nothing interesting to report.

4. Sex is much more interesting. The best thing about having a grip on the English language is being able to use it in bed. Believe me when I say that most writers have a way of utilizing imagination to their advantage -- for as many have said before, "words are foreplay."

3. Everyone and their mother thinks you're too sensitive. And you are. There's no shame in this, but the reality is that writing causes one to feel rather maternal about everything that they write. Feelings and emotions will become attached to just about everything you produce and if anyone ever tries to question you, you will knock them dead out of the water with one swift blow. Verbally, of course.

2. Your apartment is a collection of worn-in journals and countless books. A writer is naked without a his/her writing journal, a pen and an old copy of a favorite novel - handwritten notes included. Tools to getting through this thing we call life, I never leave the house without three things: red lipstick, a journal and Garcia-Marquez's novellas.

1. A blank page is your friend. There is nothing more pleasing to the eyes than that of a blank page. For a writer, it symbolizes a fresh start and a clean slate - in some instances, it makes one feel almost professional. As a handsome gentleman once told me while waiting for his laundry at the neighborhood laundromat: "There are two different kinds of writers; there are amateurs and there are professionals. Amateurs still refuse to give themselves over to the dark side."

CREDIT: Joan Erakit