Highs and Lows

The Seven Best and Worst Things About Being a Writer
by Karen Wheeler

Writing is all I ever really wanted to do. To earn a living by telling stories and juggling words, is an enormous privilege. But it’s not all royalties, and roses from your publisher. (Actually, I’ve never been sent roses by my publisher, though an editor did once, send me some baklava). Here are the best (and worst) things about being a writer.



1 You can go to work in your pyjamas.
I don’t (see below) but it’s nice to know that you can.

2 You get to spend a lot of time on your own.
This is not always good, but if you happen to like your own company, then it’s pretty damn perfect. Plus, you don’t have to deal with office politics, unpredictable bosses, or fashion folk with egos the size of Africa – all of which featured in my previous career as a fashion journalist.

3 The act of writing.
When it is going well, writing gives you an unbeatable high and I can’t think of anything else that I would rather be doing. My favourite part of the process is what writer Ian Rankin calls ‘adding the magic’. Writing a book is like building a house: you put the foundations and structure in place first, then build it up in layers until finally, you get to add the colour and the decoration – what I call ‘hanging the chandeliers’.

4 Typing ‘The End’.
When you finish the final draft of a book that you know your readers are waiting for, it is a euphoric moment.

5 You are the freest of free spirits.
You can work anywhere – in cafes, on trains, trapped in a lift, on a beach, in the supermarket queue – and at anytime.

6 Feeling the reader love.
My readers write the most wonderful messages and reviews, as well as contacting me via Twitter to ask if my latest book will be out soon, which can be very motivating, especially if you’ve only written a couple of chapters. A few have even shown up on my doorstep in France. It’s a huge compliment, (though if you’re planning to visit me, it would be helpful to know in advance).

7 Literary events and book launches.
Occasionally you get to cast aside your pyjamas, comb your hair and meet your readers. It’s also wonderful to spend time with other writers, who are usually very supportive of each other and excellent company.



1 You can go to work in your pyjamas.
I strongly advise against this. I actually get dressed up to write as if I were going out to work. You’ll find me at my desk wearing red Prada shoes – too high for walking, but ideal for writing. I find that kebab skewer heels sharpen the mind.

2 You get to spend a lot of time on your own.
As a result you spend far too much time on Twitter looking at cute pictures of dogs and over-sharing the details of your life.

3 The act of writing.
Yup, some days it doesn’t go so well and you find yourself thinking, “Maybe, it’s not too late to be that lawyer/veterinary surgeon/tea shop waitress/[insert alternative career].”

4 Typing ‘The End’.
The end is just the beginning – of edits, proofs (the bit I really dislike) and publicity. It’s not enough to write a good book and assume it will find its audience. You have to lead it to its audience.

5 You are the freest of free spirits.
Sometimes too much freedom is a bad thing. You need discipline to keep on showing up at your desk each morning.

6 NOT feeling the reader love.
Constructive criticism is always welcome but occasionally a nasty review can knock you to the floor. Whenever, I want to convince myself I’ve chosen the wrong career or take myself down a peg, I read a review on US Amazon, entitled ‘BORING!!!!” by a lady called ‘Joy’.

7 Literary events and book launches.
You spend weeks beforehand worrying that a) people won’t show up b) laugh at your jokes. But they usually do.

Karen Wheeler is the author of three French travel memoirs, including Tout Sweet: Hanging up my High Heels for a New Life in France. She is working on a fourth in the series, Sweet Encore, and has just written a book, based on the dieting secrets of French women through the ages, The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight, which will be released as an e-book on June 14.

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2 Responses to Highs and Lows

  1. Imelda Evans says:

    Okay, I’m hanging out for the cake diet book! At church today, I read ‘grace-filled’ as ‘cake-filled’. I think it may be coming up to that time of the month. Great post, Karen!

  2. Thank you so much Imelda. Also, the diet really works – and you do get to eat cake.
    : )

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