Being A Writer: Expectations Vs. Reality

For everyone who has 20 pages of the next Great American Novel. Or two pages. Any pages, really. posted on

1. Expectation: Woo-hoo! You’re armed with an MFA and you are going to write the s*%t out of your first book!

Reality: You don’t actually have anything to write about yet.

2. Expectation: Once you’ve gotten started, you’ll work on your book nonstop, fueled by creative passion.

Reality: Your moments of creative passion will come at odd times and may require liquid or food reinforcements.

3. Expectation: Using a vintage typewriter will turn you into a truly authentic writer.

Reality: Typewriters are THE WORST.

4. Expectation: Your technology will never fail you! Your MacBook is your best friend.

Reality: Let’s talk again the first time you lose your ENTIRE book and NO, YOU DIDN’T BACK UP, thanks for asking.

But guess what! When you rewrite it, it’ll be better than it was the first time.

5. Expectation: This is your idea of a “working writer.”

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Reality: This is what many a working writer looks like.

But you wouldn’t be a real writer if you didn’t struggle a bit… or something… right?

6. Expectation: You are confident that you have what it takes to make it.

Reality: Writing is the hardest thing ever!

(But don’t give up!)

7. Expectation: You’ll become part of an inspiring community of writers who all support each other and love each other.

Reality: Maybe don’t expect anyone to hold your hand.

8. Expectation: You’ll wake up bright and early every morning, totally ready to spend the next eight hours immersed in the world of your story.

Reality: You really can’t work without Freedom, the app popular with writers that shuts off your WiFi connection for a certain amount of time.

(Of course, that doesn’t stop you from checking email and Twitter on your phone. Alas.)

9. Expectation: Once you’ve gotten a draft of your novel, you’re fairly certain you’ve written the next Infinite Jest.

Reality: You’ve written something that is in fact completely confusing. And now you have to revise for, like, a million years.

10. Expectation: You’ll have a book deal in no time because your idea “is better than 99% of the other ideas out there.”

Reality: Many weird ideas will sell before yours. Some may even be written by your friends.

Just stay cool and keep working. And buy your friend’s book, because you’d want them to buy yours.

11. Expectation: As a writer, you will have a special and beautiful space in which you craft your beauteous prose.

Reality: You never use that room. This is how you do all your writing.

See No. 2. Hey, when inspiration strikes, your laptop doesn’t care if you haven’t brushed your teeth yet.

12. Expectation: Your friends will give you honest critiques of your work.

Reality: They just might.

That actually means they’re really good friends. “It was so good!” is never helpful.

13. Expectation: Even if you haven’t had your big break yet, you’ll still live like a writer and practice your craft every day.

Reality: You feel guilty about how little you’ve written, so instead you take to Instagram to make it seem like you’ve just banged out 2,000 words.

14. Expectation: You’ll just start a blog, it’ll become super popular, and you won’t even have to find an agent! They’ll call you!

OK, so you probably know this isn’t true. But you still dream about it happening.

Reality: You’ll have to write a detailed proposal, or write your whole book first before you start querying agents. And then, you will find that it takes many, many emails and time.

But once you do find your agent, you will be obsessed with her! Yippee!

15. Expectation: Your daydreams of sharing your work at literary salons or at readings look like this.

Reality: Reading in public is a huge, huge deal, and you need to psyche yourself up to do it.

16. Expectation: Once you’ve gotten one book under your belt, you’ll decamp to Paris for a bit and write from a rooftop garret.

Reality: Maybe settle for a month in Paris in an Airbnb rental that looks vaguely like the 1998 Ikea catalog instead.

17. Expectation: You are going to be the voice of your generation.

Reality: If you work hard enough, you may be A voice of A generation.

So get back to work, young scribes!

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