Whenever I read interviews with successful authors, the question of ‘how often do you write?’ almost always comes up. It’s an inevitable and obvious question that journalists and interviewers seem to ask on autopilot. It’s usually one of the first questions asked, and how it is answered is now making people ask if such questions (and their answers) are putting unreasonable pressure and stress on other writers.
Full time YouTube video makers who quit their day jobs and become famous enough to become of interest to mainstream media will usually get asked a similar question – the dreaded ‘so, how much do you get paid?’ question – in every interview, often before being asked any other questions. Most YouTubers, because of NDAs and contracts aren’t allowed to publicly discuss their earnings, but that doesn’t stop reporters from asking, and YouTubers answering with outlandishly false answers. Up and coming YouTubers then go on to read about their famous counterpart’s enormous (and usually fictional) pay, and become discouraged that their own efforts are not garnering a similar rate of return.
For writers, reading about famous authors who talk about how they write every single day, quit their day jobs to focus on their writing, or insist the only way to become successful is to follow a specific career path can be downright devastating to developing writers, discouraging them from pursuing their dreams because their role models in the industry may be unwittingly leading them to believe they don’t have what it takes to make it.
Ultimately, there is no one way to be a writer. There is no one true path to success. Often, those who insist that writers who don’t commit to crippling personal schedules and self imposed deadlines are lining themselves up for failure, don’t take into account the personal circumstances of their fellow authors.
Those that work nine-to-five day jobs will often find committing to a daily writing schedule unworkable. This doesn’t make them lazy. Those who can’t afford to quit their jobs and work exclusively on writing aren’t lacking commitment to their art. It’s a simple reality that writing is often a part time hobby for most of us, and only a lucky few will ever be able to turn it into a full time career.
Adding undue stress and pressure onto writers by levelling unrealistic expectations upon them is unfair, unhelpful and ultimately pointless. It doesn’t encourage writers – it destroys them. This kind of stress so easily leads to burnout, which can turn even the most talented and dedicated writer away from their laptop, often forever.
So, what can we do to change this? For one thing, it wouldn’t hurt journalists to mention in their articles that while their subject may have achieved success a certain way, it isn’t the only way. A rephrasing of that question and how it is answered would also be beneficial. A simple solution would be to add emphasis on the ‘you’ in ‘how often do you write?’ while making it clear to readers that any answer reflects the personal experience of that individual only.
As writers, we put enough pressure on ourselves in the process of creating our works. Anything we can do to avoid putting more on each other can only be of benefit to us all.