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Writers on the Worst part about Writing

My personal is listening to non-writers tell me what I should never do.

Al Hunter Ashton Being on your own. I’m a party animal.
Ali McNamara Sitting still so much, definitely. I used to be a fitness instructor so I was very active all day. Writing involves too much sitting down at a desk – not good for the fitness levels or the figure!

Andrew Blackman The feeling that I’ve only expressed a tiny fraction of what I really wanted to say.
Anne Brooke The knock-backs. Boy, how they floor me. Yes, they do. No matter how many other marvellous things are happening, one rejection can make me feel like it's simply not worth it and I have no abilities whatsoever. That may of course be my manic-depressive tendencies speaking but, my goodness, those tendencies can make themselves known in no uncertain terms when they wish to. And I dread the moments when I have no idea where my characters or storyline are going, and I'm floundering around like a gaffed salmon on the bedsheets (to misquote Wodehouse). That's hell too.
Ardella Jones Settling down to it when Frasier’s on daytime TV. 
Beanie Baby The worst thing is that my thoughts never ever leave it and I find that incredibly frustrating when I know I have to go to the office every day. It is all-consuming and 24 hour - even my sleep is disturbed by it. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Bill Spence For me the worst thing about writing is finishing the book and having to leave the characters I have become close to and know so well, but there are new people to meet in the book ahead.
Cally Taylor Near constant self-doubt and worry.
Candi Miller Sitting on your bottom, all alone in front of the keyboard, for days, months, years on end.
Candy Denman What's the worst thing about writing?
When you have just sent the completed script off and are waiting for the producer/director/script editor to get back to you with their comments. That’s when you suddenly realise the hero can’t solve it that way, the baddie is in two places at once, and the whole plot hinges round something that can’t really happen.
Caroline Rance The feeling that, because it doesn't bring in a regular income, I'm not allowed to take it seriously. Some people still seem to see it as a cute hobby to keep my little brain occupied while I'm sitting at home doing nothing except looking after a toddler. I wish society would accept that some things are worth doing even if they don't attract a wage.
Cassandra Clare It can get very lonely
Catherine Cooper Waiting. I’m not a patient person and find the pace of the submissions process soooooo sloooooooow. 
Catherine Richards Having lots of ideas and not enough time to get them written down.
Cathy Glass Nothing for me. I love every stage of the writing process, from that furiously scribbled first draft, to the endless revision where the manuscript magically transforms before your very eyes, to the final proof reading. To create a piece of writing, whether it is a paragraph or full length manuscript, is sheer joy for me.
Christina Courtenay I don’t really think it has many downsides for me. I love writing and everything involved in the process. Of course it can be frustrating when it doesn’t quite flow the way you want it to, but that’s something you have to accept and work around.
Claire Allen Finding the time! As a full time journalist and also a mother of a three year old it can be hard to find time. Alongside that, when I'm really into the writing process I find it hard to switch the characters off in my head. They are always fighting to get out- so at times I'm covering the local news fixtures, planning what to cook for the wee man's tea and trying to keep my MC quiet until I can actually sit down in front of the lap top.
Claire Moss The constant self-doubt. I don't think you can be a good writer unless you are endlessly critical of your work, but it does leave you with a nagging sense of not being good enough.
Courttia Newland The money.
Craig Baxter The self-absorption and time spent inside your own head when you could be out there having a real life
Danny Rhodes The only thing that frustrates me about writing is not being able to afford to do it full time, but I’m working on that!
Dawn Finch Oh, that one is easy! Editing your own work. That is a ghastly process of reading and re-reading and going over every fine point for repetition, lost meaning, possible confusion and flow. That whole process is agony – and I can’t have a glass of wine doing it as I can’t afford for my concentration to drift off! Having to be brutal and critical over your own work is so hard. I know that it will be edited at the publishers and so when I’m getting down to fine points like commas it is a little bit like tidying your hotel room before the maid comes – but I still prefer to do it for myself.
Deborah Swift I suppose the general angst and insecurity that I always think my writing’s not quite good enough. But it doesn’t stop the itch to do it
Diane Samuels The loneliness sometimes, the lack of daily support by others and not having a regular paycheck..
Domenica De Rosa For me, there is no down side.
Elizabeth Buchan I think one had to guard against being thoroughly neurotic. A harsh verdict from a critic or a reader can plunge me into gloom. But I am aware that you will never learn if you ignore the bad review. It is a painful, but necessary, process and if you flinch facing up to the mistakes, then you do yourself a disservice.
Emilia di Girolamo The fact that it takes a long time to make it financially successful unless you are very lucky or have a truly unique talent and that you have to do other things to supplement your income. In terms of TV, the fact that it takes so long to get the work from script to screen so I can't be as topical as I might like.
Eva Salzman Getting started. Each time. Secretarial and domestic drudgery.
Eve Ainsworth The self-doubt never goes away, and it’s an evil beast. 
Fiona Robyn I seem to have to overcome huge resistance whilst writing first drafts, and have to force myself to my desk!
Gary Davison People interrupting you.
George Szirtes Nothing bad. The worst thing is not writing.
Gillian McClure Silence when I don’t want it; publishers’ silence; answer phones that say, ‘You have no messages’.
Gordon and Williams RG: Not being able to.
BW: Editors (Haha!)
Helen Black Self doubt. I always think everything’s rubbish.
Helen Castor It’s really hard. For me, at least! Every word is like getting blood out of a stone.
Jae Watson Never being as good as I want to be
James Burge The fact that first drafts always read like teeth-clenchingly embarrassing rubbish. It always comes out all right in the end but I can never seem to get it right first time.
Jane Elmor Self-discipline when you work on your own is always the killer. Making sure you get up and don't spend the day in a dressing gown, surfing the net or watching daytime TV. Talking to yourself and forgetting how to behave in polite society. The desire for wine at lunchtime and a snooze in the afternoon. The craving for a fag when you get stuck, even though you gave up years ago. The enormous mountain of unwritten words you have to face at the start of a novel. Knowing that there is the perfect word, phrase or metaphor out there somewhere for what you want to express and not being able to find it. Having to be ruthless during edits – it's painful slashing things out that you've spent ages crafting. (Save the amputated parts somewhere though – it makes it hurt less to think you could use them in something else some time.)
Jane Rogers The solitude.
Jem The ups and downs, the lack of ideas that occasionally occurs, the fear of rejection, the certainty that you’ll never get another idea after this one, the cheque that’s in the post, God where do I start? Like they say on the X-factor - It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.
Jenn Ashworth The fact that you never know how it is going to work out. I don't plan, I type away in the dark until a shape or a voice appears. It's horrible and frightening to think of how much time I've wasted getting to an idea. I'm a slow and wasteful writer - much more than half gets thrown away, because, as I said, I have to write it out before I can think it or see it.
Jill McGivering The re-writing – again and again and again…
Jim Younger I don’t think there’s any ‘worst thing’ about writing, or the best either. “Life is a Roller Coaster, Just gotta ride it,” as Mr Keating wrote. But yes, like when you hit your stride on a great fiddle tune, there are moments of exultation - and moments near despair too, and all sorts of crazy feelings that go along with the whole trip.
John Murray The worst thing about writing in my case has been the ups and downs of getting published. Aidan Ellis did two more of my books; Kin(1986) and Pleasure(1987).The latter was a book of stories that won the Dylan Thomas Award in 1988. But he turned down Radio Activity(subtitled 'A Cumbrian Tale in Five Emissions') and my agent also ditched me once they saw it. It went round 35 publishers unagented before a tiny outfit called Sunk Island published it in 1993. It was immediately chosen as a Book of the Year in the Spectator and Independent and got rave reviews from Jonathan Coe and DJ Taylor. The lesson there is I suppose never give up and don't always believe what the publishers and agents tell you! They're not infallible, though they like to pretend that they are.
Since then I've been with Flambard who have really looked after me. They're only a small press and there are no great financial rewards, but they've done four of my novels in five years and a reissue of Radio Activity to boot. John Dory(2001) a spiritual thriller about a man and a fish, got some great reviews in the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Times etc. Jazz Etc(2003)was longlisted for the Booker and that really affected its sales. Murphy's Favourite Channels(2004)was a Novel of the Week in the Daily Telegraph.
The other tough thing about writing is when you've managed to get a book published and the reviews aren't happening. I have a couple of friends who've struggled for decades (literally) to get in print and once it's happened they haven't had a single review. That is to say the least very demoralising. I've been lucky myself. Murphy's Favourite Channels got 10 reviews in the national papers and only 2 of them were bad ones!
John Ritchie Not having enough time and/or money to devote yourself entirely to it. Though even as I write that, I know it is a cop-out. You can always find what you need of either, if you really want to. 
Okay, the next worse thing is doubting yourself, and your ability to write. That can get you into the dreaded Ground Hog Day where you write Chapter One Page One over and over again as you seek that elusive perfection. AARRGGH!
Jon Haylett I am, effectively, a full-time writer now, and there is little that I find unpleasant until a book or a story is ready to be presented to the outside world. With short stories, I send them to competitions, which is relatively painless, but interesting agents and publishers in a book is a gruelling battle
Jonathan Wolfman Disciplining yourself to do it when no one’s paying you or giving you a deadline. You have to be self-motivated. Dealing with rejection was the worst, but you have to get used to it. Also dealing with your own negativity. It’s very easy to lose heart and think you are crap.
Josa Young Not being able to write fiction due to one crisis after another. And understanding that looking at Amazon rankings is a form of madness. Isabel Wolff has come up with the brilliant phrase ‘novel gazing’ for this insane activity.
Julia Bell Not being able to listen to the radio at the same time. (As I imagine all artists must be able to do . . . )
Julia Copus Having to be self-disciplined. It’s easy enough to sit down at your desk when you’ve already got your teeth into something – and it’s much easier if you’re working on a longer project, or something with a narrative thread which you can pick up each morning. After I’d written my first radio play (which took me only a few weeks), I realised to my horror that it contained roughly the same number of words as a whole poetry collection. A poetry collection often takes years to finish. I think that’s because each new poem is like a new project, and each new project takes a little time to feel your way into. The trick might be to have several things on the go at once. I’m experimenting with this at the moment!
Kal Bonner I've just discovered that the worst thing about writing, is trying to answer a question about the worst thing about writing. Apart from being Liverpool FC's masseur, it has to be the best job in the world.
Kate Long I’ve found the business of self-promotion hard. I was always taught as a child not to push myself forward, and really you have to if you’re going to publicise a book.
Kate Tym It’s really, really, really hard to consistently make money. There can be periods of feast – but there’s a lot of famine too.
Kia Abdullah Having to be extremely self-disciplined. There may be days on end where you don’t feel inspired and you don’t want to write but you have to be disciplined and take the time out to sit down and write. Otherwise, you would never get a manuscript finished.
Kit Peel Reading most first drafts…
Laura Watson It can be lonely at times and the work can be unpredictable.
Lee Henshaw I’m too enthusiastic about writing to consider the worst thing about it. I’ve heard talk of the tyranny of the blank page, the famous writers’ block, but Van Gogh said why should a painter be afraid of a blank canvas, a blank canvas should be afraid of the painter. I thrash every page I write on until it submits.
Lee Jackson The process of writing – sitting alone in a room at a keyboard and typing – is a repetitive and mundane one, no matter how creatively satisfying the results. But I can’t quite see any other way of doing it. The rewards, too, are rather peculiar. The ultimate result – the finished book – is a massively deferred pleasure (about nine months in my case). You have to be rather stubborn or obsessive to stick at it – a sensible person just would not bother.
Lola Jaye Sometimes it’s just so hard to get the motivation going- especially when stuff like changing the vase water suddenly seems like the most important thing in the world. But luckily, once you start it’s easier to really get into it and then it’s all lovely again. But then there’s the dreaded writers block. Don’t get me started on that…
A L Berridge The compulsion. The not having a choice whether you write or not, but being totally bloody forced to do it in order to get the story out of your head before you go mad.
Lucy McCarraher With two small children, the village community and some occasional work-life balance commissions to attend to, the only downside is not having enough time to write. Otherwise nothing. Being a full time novelist would be the fulfillment of a dream and so far I haven’t found a downside to the writing itself. So far the publicity/marketing side has been quite fun, but I could get tired and stressed with that.
Luisa Plaja Aching for more time to write. Oh, also banishing that annoying inner critic. I've got a really loud one here. Grr, go away.
Malcolm Burgess Running out of black Bic fine point biros and having to write with the stubby one you were sent by the RSBP.
Maria McCarthy Getting started. 
Mark Booth The time that gets eaten up whenever I sit down to start writing and I should be doing something more useful. Time goes so quickly these days that I feel guilty just answering this questionnaire. I’m keeping my answers deliberately short.
Mark Liam Piggott Rejection
Matt Lynn The middle. The beginning of a book is great because it is a fresh start. And the end is great because it is exciting (if it isn’t, there’s something wrong with your book!). But between 40,000 and 60,000 words is a slog.
Meg Peacocke The superstitious fear that overcomes me, when I’ve finished a poem, that I may never make another. I don’t believe it, but I still can’t stop the fear kicking in.
Michael Ridpath Rejection. All writers experience it at some stage in their career, usually at the beginning. For me it was in the middle. You know you shouldn’t take it personally, but it is impossible not to. I sometimes think successful people are just those who don’t give up.
Michelene Wandor Having to ‘audition’ for each new commission; it’s also worth remembering that there is an enormous amount of admin work attached to being a writer. It sometimes feels as though too much time goes on this admin, before one can actually get down to the writing itself. But that goes with the territory. The insecurity is absolutely the worst thing.
Michelle Harrison There’s not really much that I don’t like about it. My only niggle is thinking you’ve got a good idea or plot-line only to find that someone else has already done it. This has only happened to me once and luckily it was with a very small part of the story, but it can still be frustrating.
Milly Johnson Neurotic feelings that my books won’t be bought and my career will end – because I’m not fit for anything else!
Neil Forsyth Waiting for news.
Neil J Hart The hardest, and therefore I suppose the worst thing about writing, is not knowing whether what you’re writing is any good. Are the characters interesting enough, will people connect with the plot, will they get it, do I get it, has this all been done before? It’s important to challenge yourself and your writing, otherwise how can we evolve as writers? I keep a small group of close friends and writers that give brutal, honest feedback on ideas and writing work but essentially you’re on your own.
Neil Nixon The uncertainties around whether projects in development will ever get to production. Also the often painful collision between things I care about and the grim realities of the market.
Nick Griffiths The compulsion to self-motivate.
Nick Stafford The fallow times when you feel you’ve no imagination left and the barren times when nobody wants you.
Nicky Singer It never goes away.
Nik Perring Without the shadow of a doubt: the waiting. The whole industry, through little fault of its own, appears so slow to writers. There’s the months of waiting for responses from agents and publishers – and then even once everything’s agreed and signed it can be months (sometimes even years) before your book is released. I think the lesson to be learned from that is that you don’t need to rush anything where your writing’s concerned. Take your time and make sure you get it right.
Being such a solitary process it can get a wee bit lonely. Being a member of the fab writewords community helps with that though.
Oh, and hearing the hoover start up when you’re trying desperately to concentrate comes a close second!
Patricia Cumper The worst thing about writing is the uncertainty of the life, not knowing from year to year how you are going to survive. It may also be a good thing as it does spur you on, helps you focus on finding the next story you want to tell.
Patrick Dillon Not knowing whether something’s working or not.
Paul Reed The nerves before a reading. It can be terrifying. It's all about controlling yourself in the end.
Peter Robertson The monastic aspect but there is simply no other way if you are to get down to it. I am a gregarious man by nature and a large part of me thrives on the cut-and-thrust of the world. That said, I can cope with the loneliness of the writing vocation. I have had a lot of illness in my life—one illness, which was diagnosed in my early thirties, was devastating and lasted for fifteen years. I was confined to bed for long stretches, saw virtually no-one in the early stages, and was forced to look inwards. During this time I had no option but to come to terms with myself. So I now have the inner resources to shut myself in a room and will the world to recede.
Preethi Nair The solitude
Rebecca Connell I thought for a long time about this, because I can’t find much wrong with writing! I suppose it would have to be the necessity to do it even when you don’t feel like it. My writing motto is, “A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it” (Samuel Johnson), and I do try to keep to that, but it can be very hard to plough on when you don’t feel inspired. I know from experience that if I work through it, no matter how terrible I think my writing is, I will look more kindly on it in retrospect. I don’t tend to suffer from serious writer’s block, and I think my willingness to “stick it out” when the going is tough is the reason for this, but it can certainly feel unpleasant at the time.
Rebecca Strong Not having enough time to write, or having the time and wasting it.
Ron Morgans The book publishing system. It’s antiquated. I helped Eddie Shah launch the Today newspaper with new colour technology in 1986. The publishing industry is just getting round to using it now.
Rosy Barnes The old cliché: people asking whether you're going to be the next JK Rowling of course! (They DO do this, even to me - I mean does Sadomasochism for Accountants sound like a kid’s book to you?) 
And people asking “what it’s about?” which normally provokes the response, “Err, umm, it’s about this bunch of accountants, right? And this bunch of sadomasochists and…” I HATE people asking what my book’s about. (It does make sense when you read it. It does! It does!)
Rosy Thornton There aren’t any bad things about writing. Not for me, though there are plenty for my family (“Mum?” – “Shut up I’m writing!”). But there are plenty of horrible things about having things rejected by agent and/or editor, which has happened to me a fair bit even after getting my agent (one completed novel in 2005 rejected by the agent, another completed novel last year which hit the editorial rocks, and 40,000 words of yet another this past winter which my agent chucked out….). My productivity is on the manic side but my hit rate is pretty damn low!
Sally Nicholls With Ways to Live Forever it felt like I’d solve one problem and six more would appear. I wrote the book in lots of disparate scenes. This was wonderfully liberating when I started, because I’d think “There should be a scene about snow and it should go somewhere near the end” or “Sam would like that story, that will go somewhere in the middle” and then I’d just write it without worrying. The problem came when I tried to sew them all together with something approximating narrative thread. I think I wrote twelve entirely different opening scenes, for example, before I found one that I liked. Other problems included getting the tone light enough to appeal to children without trivialising the issue, getting all the medical details right and having it address all the philosophical and emotional questions that I wanted it to address, while keeping it funny and interesting. 
Sally Zigmond Getting going in the morning. I waste so much time after I’ve switched on the computer, checking emails and catching up on blogs, websites, and forums such as Write Words! I tell myself that because they’re all writing-related, that it’s relevant and essential—which they are—but they’re also classic displacement activity.
Sara Maitland The fact that I never do as much or do it as well as I would like to and know I could.
Sarah Salway When people who are not writers tell me how they would write too, if only they had the time. 
Sarah Stovell If you want to look at it as a job, there’s not much money in it and no security. I have no idea whether anyone will still want to publish me two years from now.
Shelley Weiner Waiting for responses. At every level. For me, it never gets easier and I’ll never get thicker-skinned about it. It’s kind of comforting that – although some writers are better than others at showing it – everyone feels vulnerable. The problem is that the publishing business is a hard-nosed one and it deals, on the whole, with sensitive souls. Rejection and the fear that we have nothing more to say is something we all have to deal with.
Shika Well, there's a certain lack of credibility until one is published, no? I think blogging, competitions and opportunities to read work out can help but I think this legitimacy or lack thereof is a huge challenge for the unpublished writer.
The other issue is the lack of focussed support for those of us who are yet to bag an agent and or a publisher. It seems odd to me that here you have an industry that has to rely on a steady stream of new writers for content and yet does nothing to seek out, sustain or hone new talent. Seems like an odd way to plan for the long term and I'm not aware of any other industry that does not try to build long-term alliances with potential suppliers based on old-fashioned transparency and trust. 
Sion Scott-Wilson Isolation and viruses. I hate viruses, I hate the people who create
them. I keep smashing keyboards. Now that I use a mac, I keep
smashing keyboards.
Smith Browne Spelling.
Sol B River Oh dear .... er ... many things, money has so far eluded me and that unfortunately has a bearing on when I can write. I'm only as good as my last play. It's quite painful for me (the actual writing) even in a pleasurable way. It's all engrossing, so time passes very quickly and very slowly or just stands still. I live on the edge of the city centre so many times in-between writing scenes I will walk into town wondering what I'm doing with my life..... that's probably the problem, I should be thinking what I going to do with the scene.
Stella Duffy Having to keep going when I’d like to just write A … C ….P … and then Z, but have to fill in the gaps.
Steve Feasey The guilt you feel when you don’t write. I’m hopeless at organising myself, and I’ve a propensity to faff around when I should be tapping away at the keys of my laptop. When I have a couple of days in which I haven’t written very much I tend to kick myself around a bit and get moody.
Steven Hague The worst thing about being a writer is the fact that you have to stay positive – you have to constantly live in hope: hope that you’ll find an agent, hope that you’ll find a publisher, and hope that you’ll find an audience - two out of three’s a start and I’m working on the third.
Sue Moorcroft Rejections. We all get them, in some form. Even in contracted manuscripts an editor will ask for substantial changes. Rejections are part of a writer’s life and I accept them and learn from them. But, groany groan, who likes them?
Tania Hershman Having to be alone to do it, and needing to get away from family and friends and shut the door. I feel like I push people away, but for me there is no other way to be a writer.
Tim Lott The boredom.
Tony McGowan It can be lonely and boring and, as I suggested above, it turns you into a crank. And I’ve lost some good friends who thought they saw themselves in my characters, and didn’t like it. Plus, unless you strike it lucky, the pay is rubbish!
Tracy Buchanan Forgetting to eat!
Vanessa Curtis ilt for not doing it. Guilt for doing it. Wasting days. Comparing myself unfavourably to other novelists. The long periods of time when I have to wait: waiting for inspiration, waiting to find time to write, waiting to hear from agents, then publishers, etc. The way that writing is so tied in with my sense of self-worth – it shouldn’t be, but it is. The incredible odds stacked against success of any kind – is there any other career where you work alone on projects for maybe years at a time with no guarantee of any recognition at the end of it?
Vanessa Gebbie The fact that it creeps up on you when you aren’t prepared. If a story wants to be written, it wants to be written NOW. Not in five minutes, or tomorrow. NOW. It gets in the way of family life, that’s for sure. And I think I have probably lost quite a few friends since I started writing seriously.
William Coles I don't know about the "worst thing" - it's all part of the process. I love writing and if you're a writer then you know it's going to be a slog. But ... oh yes! I know! Editing! This is not my forte. Going through draft after draft and tweaking and fiddling, until I haven't got a damn clue whether the first draft was better than the tenth. That's why I adore writing for newspapers. You write your whole story in four hours flat, read through it once, send it, and bingo - it's in the next day's paper. Books have the gestation period of an elephant. I'm not especially good, as they say, at "killing my little darlings".
William Sutton The lack of imposed structure.
Zoe Lambert How you invest so much of yourself in it. Whatever it’s about, it is intensely personal. After a while I learnt to distance myself from it.
Zoe Williams Oh, you know, sometimes everything that comes out of your head is just horrible, but you’re in a rush and you’re not a perfectionist at the best of times, so you just send it in, and they come back to you 17 times with changes because they know it’s shit but they can’t put their finger on why, and 17 times later, it’s just as bad as it was in the first place, but it’s taken 17 times as long.

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