Do you really want to write? Or do you just want to live the writing life? Does it have to be one or the other? Or can they work together to create an ideal writing life?

A reading on the staircase

In the middle of my home-town independent bookstore is a sweeping staircase up to the mezzanine level. Half-way up this staircase is a small landing, a great place to stop and look out over the shoppers below, before you continue on to the children’s section above.

This bookstore has several places where authors hold readings. There’s the travel section that fits about 30 people comfortably. There is the atrium, that fits about 100 people, and the restaurant. They are all great spots to have readings, though the atrium is one of the favourites. It is big, and sunny because of the walls of windows. 

But the staircase…

Only the biggest authors get to read from the staircase.

They put a mic on that mid-point landing, and the author can look out over their throngs of fans that fill up the entire store. Alexander McCall Smith (of the No. 1 Detective Ladies Series fame), gets to read from the staircase. 

To be offered the staircase, the bookstore essentially needs to be guaranteed attendance of several hundred fans. Understandably so. Such readings essentially disrupt the entire store so it better be worth it. 

Being offered the staircase means you have arrived, baby! You have the major advance, the publishers have been actively publicizing you and your book, you have a following, literary award stickers grace your book covers, you do media interviews regularly, your book tour is paid for by the publisher.

You, my friend, are living the writing life if you get offered to read from the staircase.

What is and ideal writing life anyway?

Is that really what it is? Is an ideal writing life being on book tour, reading to throngs of fans at book signings, and going on press junkets? 

That is definitely a part of the writing life. And it is often what most people think of when you tell them you’re a writer. There is often some kind of remark made about making the big bucks, or a question of when your book is going to be made into a movie or television show. 

But that isn’t all there is to an ideal writing life. We also tend to think of being able to write full-time and earn a good, if not amazing, living from selling our books.

While that is the ideal writing life, it is one most of us aren’t living.

Our writing life consists of still having to go to the day job to be able to pay the bills, fitting in writing when we can. We’re still querying agents or have book deals that aren’t yet making the good advances and we end up doing most of the publicity ourselves. And for those of us who are self-publishing, there is still the added task of figuring out marketing strategies and laying out the expense of an editor and printing costs without any, or with very little, idea if we will make back our investment, let alone a profit we can put into the next book.

That isn’t to say we can’t start building toward our ideal writing life. In fact, I’d say we have already started building.

I love having written more than I like actually writing

You’ve probably said it yourself at some point or other. “I love having written more than I like actually writing.” It’s easy to see why. Often times, sitting down to write is hard. Not because the writing itself is difficult, but because we don’t have the time or focus or energy we need to put into it. So when we do exert the energy and have written, walking away feels amazing. We have accomplished something incredible.

I personally like to call it a writer’s high.

Simply having the desire and the determination to sit down and write, to finish a story, to take the time to edit it, is the foundation of the ideal writing life.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to write your first or third novel. The very fact that you were able to give it time and energy to create a story, is what is going to get you to that ideal writing life.

Without that foundation, that determination, that need, to write, there is no writing life. No book tours or book contracts or national Book Club pressers.

If you can sit down to write, you can build your ideal writing life. 

Writing is the ideal writing life

I know, I know. Book tours and publicity is super glamorous. Way more so in T.V. and movies than in real life, but still, it’s pretty spectacular.

But if you asked any of the authors who are on those book tours, they would probably tell you that as great as it is to get wined and dined, at the end of the day, they still have to go home (or back to the hotel room), and write. And writing is what they love to do. Writing is really their life, not the publicity and tours.

So let me swing back to the staircase in my home-town bookstore. Most authors who are big enough and are offered that they can do their reading from the staircase, prefer the atrium. It is still big enough to fit in good-sized crowd, and yet it is still intimate enough that they can interact with their audience. And they do interact with their audience. 

Because their ideal life, is all about the writing, and connecting with their readers.

If you haven’t done so in a while, I encourage you to take that step to building your foundation for your ideal writing life: sit down to write. One sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time. And let me know how it goes!

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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