The loneliness of the middle distance writer

In this episode I talk about the loneliness of being a writer and the problems associated with writing for long periods without any feedback or reward.
It’s a tricky one for most writers, I think. How do you find the strength to keep going without the occasional treat or fun-biscuit? I know I found it very tough going at times when I was deep into the meat of my novel.

Have a watch of the video and let me know what you think.

Watch this episode on Vimeo

  1. I’ve been watching a few of your videos and am increasingly sticking with watching them through. Good casual delivery and atmosphere without rambling. Keep up the good work.
    -Someone thinking about writing

  2. Thank you Ian for this episode. Inspirational as always. Reassuring as often. Preachy never.
    The muddle in the middle is a hard slough of despond… sucks your feet back in as soon as squelch at you. My novel has been on the go for six or seven years, an almost shameful record, though poetry in between which I selfpublished last year, it’s so much easier to polished sentences than build plot scaffolding!

    By the way, I prefer your posts when you’re not wearing glasses… they tend to reflect light from your keyboard,a bit distracting.

    Jilly

    1. Such nice things to say – thank you!
      And in the name of reassurance, from starting out to getting an agent and then completing my novel, it took roughly six or seven years too. Life gets in the way. The important thing is to keep going and believe in your work.

      And good point about the specs – I hadn’t thought of that!

  3. I’m in the middle of crafting a huge story, and as much as I enjoy it, it is indeed very frustrating at times. There’s quite a large pool of feelings, from being totally happy over one particular scene to thinking ‘Why the heck am I doing this at all?” So, to me, it’s important to remember that I’m not alone, that there are other writers out there having to endure and overcome similar feelings.Thank you, great video, keeps me going.

    1. That is absolutely the thing to remember and a key point I wanted to make in this post. Whatever you’re feeling, you’re certainly not alone. This writing business is very, very difficult for the majority of people, especially those who have to juggle jobs, children and all manner of other commitments.
      Keep at it!

  4. Hi Iain, really enjoyable vid. as always.
    My writing, if I’m in the throws of it as I have been of late, tends to swing between the feeling of pushing a Stonehenge-sized boulder in a barrow up a hill to a strange mental dissection while brow is furrowed in my own little world; interspersed with a cup of tea; or tea; or the occasional cup of tea; and awoken from my trance for dinner with an extraordinarily understanding wife. 🙂

    1. Yes, I must add that I have a very understanding partner too – I’m not sure I gave her enough credit in the clip! Also, tea and biscuits count as rewards in my book! Thanks for the comment and continued support.

  5. I posted a comment below the video, but it doesn’t show here–only on the vimeo page. Ah well. Anyway, thanks for this–and nicely spoken.

    1. Hi Joe – yes I host all the videos over on Vimeo and then embed them into posts here too, so that everyone who is subscribed can get them. This is where most of the conversation takes place. Feel free to comment here too and I’ll be sure to reply to your comment on Vimeo asap.

  6. It’s always such a pleasure to watch your videos, Iain. A writer’s loneliness is rarely addressed, so I applaud your efforts. The wonderful thing about this wacky internet is that it lessens the loneliness a touch, at least for me. Carry on! Continue to do good work! 🙂

  7. Hi IainYou have encapsulated exactly how I’ve been feeling about my own writing – I’m on my third novel now, still aiming to be published, but lately have been thinking how few and unsatisfying the rewards are – much as I try to be positive about the intrinsic rewards of the creative process, they are not enough for me. So I’ve decided to return to my previous occupation of freelance writing, just so I can feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction about my writing. And of course, even though it goes against the artistic grain to say so, being paid for your work is also part of the reward. I will do this in addition to my novel writing and am hoping that the satisfaction I derive from my freelance writing will feed into my creative writing. That’s the theory anyhow!

    1. Not going against the grain at all. I started writing a novel because I wanted it to be read and I wanted to make a career out of it. Now I know that most writers never achieve this, but I’ve always been of the attitude that if you don’t try, you will never know. If you have talent and patience, it can happen. But of course, it’s incredibly hard work and a sense of perspective is important amongst the perseverance. Thanks for the comment, keep at it and good luck!

  8. This was wonderful. I hadn’t really thought about the “instant feedback” part of blogging, but you’re absolutely right. I like to share my thoughts about writing, but I’m not quite ready to actually share my writing-in-progress at that point. So blogging does give me that connection and reward to keep my going.

    1. Absolutely. Short form writing is excellent and challenging and very important, and as part of a blog (or through Twitter) you can get instant feedback on your work. Just being read sometimes is enough to help you keep going. So keep going!

  9. A sound comforting message, and so very true. After writing over 20 books (for other people) I know that feeling of isolation doesn’t ever go away. I’m fortunate to have contact with my clients at certain stages of a book, although that can have its downsides too. That’s when the choccie biccies get a hiding.

    1. Sounds like you’re signed up to both my solutions – accepting the necessary solitude and… chocolate biscuits. The latter, of course, being the solution to many of the world’s problems. Thanks for the comment!

  10. Hi Iain,
    Thanks for this video. There are times mid-project when I feel adrift. Glad to hear that I’m in good company–even if I can’t see the rest of you out here.

    Mind if we take this idea a bit further?

    Let’s say you labor for a year or two on your novel. You send it out into the world and…nothing happens. You can’t find a home for it. You are, essentially, still without readers.

    Still adrift.

    Do you still feel there’s a return on your investment? In other words, was the journey its own reward, and was it reward enough to make the time you invested worthwhile?

    That hasn’t happened to me yet, but I can’t dismiss the possibility.

    I’ve posed that question to myself, and to several other (published) writers. The lot of them said no, it wouldn’t be worth the time, if it weren’t for publication. I find myself thinking otherwise. Just curious how you and the Write For Your Life community feel.

    Thanks, all.

  11. If I may throw in my two penny’s worth here, Iain, being part of the Write for your Life community? Hi Joe, I told myself, many moons ago, (and underlined to myself a few weeks back) that I shouldn’t consider writing a novel as an investment. That I should write for the love of writing and the real thirst of wanting to be read. If I made/make money that was/is a bonus.
    After labouring on your novel for a year or more, and you’ve sent it out to as many relevant agents that you can find but without success, there are two things to consider, I think. Firstly that just maybe the book needs more work/rethinking/restructuring, even it it is just making the first three chapters more powerful. The second possibility is that the novel is pretty much ready to fire but it’s the wrong time; unfortunately maybe, the publishing industry publishing within their genres- in the main – is a shoal of fish fighting over similar bait (in my opinion). If your novel isn’t flavour of the year then perhaps wait for 12 months or more and try your rounds of submissions again by which time you might have fine-tuned it more.

    But all the while, keep on writing, as I know Iain would agree; so in the eventuality that your novel won’t ever be taken up, you will have another novel which might. It’s not easy…

    For interest, I’ve just finished the final 4th edit and makeover of my first-written novel. The first draft of this was written in 1975! OK, it hasn’t found a publisher (as yet) but it goes to show that if you believe in your writing, you can resurrect old writing and improve it with a more experienced hand and a wider perspective.

    Good luck to you/us/all and write on! 🙂

  12. […] month I recorded an episode about the problems writers have when working on long projects. It seemed to strike a chord, so I thought I’d write this follow-up […]

  13. […] say it again: writers give up because they get bogged down. When struggling to write, the prospect of doing so for many more weeks and months is quite […]

  14. […] often describe writing, especially long form fiction, as a solitary process. It’s certainly true that we have to spend a significant amount of time on our own with […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.