Harsh but TRUE

Look, there are some harsh truths you need to know about this writing lark. And I’m not talking about the obvious, like this:

  • Think you can write a novel and whack it up on the Kindle and make a gazillion quid? NOPE, obviously not.
  • Or that making a film is a question of writing a brilliant script and waiting for Spielberg to call? DOUBLE NOPE.
  • Or even that being a writer is a reward enough, because you will love your job every day and life is all sunshine and flowers?? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA triple NOPE to the power of infinity!

There are some less obvious, but extremely important things you MUST realise or you might as well give up now. I’m serious! Here goes …

1) Do not stop. EVER!!!

So many Bang2writers come to me and say, ‘I’m giving up writing. There’s no point. I tried X, but they wanted Y. I tried Y, but they wanted Z. It’s clear I’m not cut out for this. See ya!’ 

I get it, it’s a harsh industry. Plus ALL writers feel like this from time to time, not just those who feel on the ‘outside’ because they haven’t made a big sale yet. Yes, that’s right, this feeling will NEVER go away!

But that’s all the more reason to keep going. Writing will always be an uphill trek of impossible odds. Every project is like resetting to zero. If you think ‘breaking in’ or ‘making it’ (whatever that means) is hard, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Definitely harsh, definitely true!

The difference is, you get better at negotiating those terrible odds. They no longer consume you or bash you over the head like they once did. You let go of the no-hopers and concentrate instead on those projects that have at least a POSSIBILITY of working.

In short, doors will always slam in your face. So you work on getting them open again with your big Shining-style axe, screaming like Jack Nicholson as you do so. At worst, you become a writing cat burglar and slither through the window instead. Yeah baby. MORE: Why Writer Luck Is More Than Throwing Spaghetti At The Wall

2) Remember – haters gotta hate

People will always tell you that you, your ideas and even your work, SUCK — get used to it. Even when you have gone out of your way to ensure your writing is fresh, some harsh person will come along and rip it to shreds because they can.

An example: my novel, The Other Twin, was praised for its emotional plotting, diverse characters, authentic story world and for ‘relevancy’ in about 90% of its reviews. This didn’t stop a small minority of reviewers writing these things about it, however:

  • ‘lacks innovation’
  • ‘feels disingenuous’
  • ‘no idea what all the good reviews are about’
  • ‘some middle-class writer thinks she’s edgy’ 
  • ‘so boring I nearly fell asleep’ 

It should be noted: this was their reaction to my book, so it’s true for them. These people are entitled to their opinions, just as I’m entitled to say they can get stuffed (arf).

But seriously, there will always be people who are not in the target audience for your work, for your ideas or even for YOU.

I’ll never forget a woman I worked with back when I was a teacher who would argue the toss constantly with any suggestion I made. It could be literally ANYTHING – from ideas on how to engage students, through to what kind of coffee machine the school should buy for the staff room.

Hell, I even repeated some of her OWN ideas back to her and she argued the toss with those too, simply because I was now saying them!

Some people are just harsh. They are not receptive to anything you say or do. So move on. Nothing to see here. Focus on finding the people who DO want to invest in you and move forwards with you … DO NOT obsess over the ones who don’t. It’s not productive.

3) Everyone is winging it

Remember the William Goldman quote about the industry, ‘No one knows what the **** they’re doing?’

This is 100% true. Just like everyone is winging it in real life, so are filmmakers, producers, publishers and other writers. Sure, they may have some ideas that might just work based on prior experience, but nothing is GUARANTEED and that scares them shitless.

Just like you.

4) You gotta get it done

If I had a quid for every Bang2writer who got angsty about the first draft, I would literally be as rich as JK Rowling right now.

Don’t worry. Get it written. Fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.

5) It’s okay to think writing is hard

Yes, yes I know. And okay, the below is a bit of an exaggeration. Or is it??? (Yes it is). Seriously, we have enough harsh non-writers taking the mick out of us and doing us down.

We writers need to realise it’s OKAY to find writing hard, but to keep going regardless. If that means working out daily word/page targets, eliminating what’s distracting us, using tools and software and negotiation to this … then fine! BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY. MORE: How To Fail As A Writer – EPIC EDITION

6) You mustn’t waste your talent

Being a writer for hire is fine if that’s what you literally want, obviously. But if you’re only writing for money; or for validation as a ‘proper’ writer who gets stuff published/made; or because you’re too scared to make that jump, then DON’T WASTE YOUR TALENT.

Write that spec screenplay. Take a year out to write that novel. Make a film of your own. Do whatever it takes to USE your talent to build your own dream, that’s ALL YOURS.

7) You mustn’t be one of the haters

It comes down to this: professional writers don’t feel the need to slag off all and sundry – whether that’s their colleagues; books, movies and TV shows; or even themselves. They know it kills their credibility, especially online. Others won’t trust them – and in an industry that values relationships so highly, this is a serious own goal.

What’s more, hating on stuff and whinging takes up waaaaay too much time! You could use this valuable time for writing and building on number 6 in this list. Think about it.

8) You can’t go off-piste

Rejection is something that happens to all writers and like number 1 min this list, will most likely NEVER go away in your career.

That’s why I love this graphic below and the idea of ‘reframing’ rejection as redirection. Whilst it’s true a writer should NEVER stop, s/he also probably shouldn’t keep hitting their hit against a brick wall either. Sometimes, the constant harsh reality of rejection is a message from the universe that says, ‘Are you *sure* this is the RIGHT way?’

It’s your job to listen and work out whether you need to take a different route to get where you want to be. THERE ARE MULTIPLE ROUTES!!!

9) You HAVE to set their world on fire

NEWSFLASH – if you need to chase people to get their interest in you or your work? That’s probably not the best place for you to be concentrating on. So:

  • If you’re getting endless radio silence? Move on
  • If a contact, agent or collaborator seems to lose interest? Move on
  • If your producer, publisher, agent, or colleagues don’t treat you or your work with the time and respect it deserves? Move on

NEVER, EVER accept a shit deal or let them keep you dangling. You and your writing is worth more than this. There are countless GREAT places who will feel lucky to have you. Go find them, instead.

10) People WILL do you wrong

These are the facts: most people in the industry are good and mean well, even if they can be careless. Plus they want to do good work and have dreams of awards and validation, just like you.

There IS a small minority of sharks, scammers and full-on arseholes out there who will take you for all they can get. But far more likely? That person you’re working with drop the ball, or throw you under the bus, especially when books get pulled or films fall apart.

When this happens, wanting to kill these people (or at least bury them up to their necks and coat their faces with honey) is a perfectly understandable reaction. But even a shitty email is not a great idea.

There’s one thing you should do … you guessed it! MOVE ON.

They will get theirs and you can remove yourself from the situation with your karma intact. Priceless. 

Bonus!

Start NOW!!

Remember number 6 on this list. Sure, there are loads of reasons why you *should* do the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do FIRST. Some of them are even good reasons, like paying the mortgage or looking after your kids (apparently turning them loose in the countryside is frowned upon. Who knew??).

So, Hugh Laurie has got it licked with this one. It’s harsh reality that you could die at any point, maybe tomorrow. You probably won’t, but that doesn’t alter the fact THERE IS ONLY NOW:

… NOW!!! Got that???

There is NO mythical future in which all your ducks will align in a row and conveniently fall into place to make life easier for your dreams. Conditions will always be impossible. So start now.

You won’t regret it. MORE: 33 Industry Insiders On Success, Dreams & Failure 

Good Luck!

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4 Responses to 10 Harsh Truths About Writing You Need To Know

  1. Karen says:

    This is timely for me, my comedy pilot just got dropped by a production company who decided at this stage it wasn’t tonally right for them after a number of feedback reports and redrafts based on their requests the woman who was championing my project had also left. But on the plus side I have a great script, one that is structurally sound and was referred to as enjoyable to read with interesting characters. Silver linings. However I’ve no idea where to go next or how or where to network. But I’m forward moving all the same.

    • Lucy V Hay says:

      Gnash, nightmare when this happens – but the good news is, like you say, you have a great script now and you will find a brilliant place for it. You got this!!!

  2. Kent DuFault says:

    Brilliant! Back to work.

  3. Erica says:

    Needed this today. Thanks!!

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