by: Joelle Charbonneau
Most jobs involve a to-do list—responsibilities that have to be taken care of on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Things that one specific person is in charge of. And yet—while one person is technically in charge, that doesn’t mean that one person has to do it all. Part of being a successful leader is knowing how and when to delegate. Recognizing the strength of others is a huge part of succeeding in the business world.
Too bad that isn’t true in writing. Oh—the book publishing business requires the ability to play nice with others. There are editors, copy editors, publicists, marketing folks, a sales team, book sellers, librarians, agents, etc… with whom a writer has to work closely with. But while they are an integral part of turning a manuscript into a book and getting those books into the hands of readers, they aren’t like the typical day job work team. You can’t delegate writing chapter 12 or ask them to finish writing the scene that is giving you fits. While you need others to get a book published, the writing part is up to you and you alone.
The job of an author can be a lonely one. You get up. Fire up the computer. Grab a cup of coffee. Shuttle through e-mails. Open up your word document (or whatever program you type in) and start to write. Some days the words come easy. Some days typing new words feels like pulling teeth. Sure there is Twitter and Facebook to occupy your time when you haven’t a freaking clue where the story is going, but while conversing with other writers and with readers is fun, it doesn’t help put words on the page. The people you chat with on social media can be great cheerleaders, but they can’t write the story. Only you can do that.
So you make yourself type no matter how tired you are. No matter how sad the events of your life or how much you’d rather be doing something else. You write because you have contractual obligations or you hope to have them one day. You write because writing is your job.
I admit that there are days that despite my fascination with the characters bopping around on the page, the job of writing feels very lonely. That the end of a manuscript seems very far away and that I feel that I am inadequate and will never get there. No matter how motivated I am to fill the pages—the words come slowly and I wish I could find someone to help meet my obligations.
Only no one can.
Only I can do that.
At one o’clock in the morning, that realization can make me feel very, very alone.
And yet – there is something pretty amazing about knowing only I can do what I do. There are lots of writers out there. Writers whose work I greatly admire. And while they do what they do brilliantly, they cannot write my story. Sure, I could give them the basic premise and they could write A story…but not my story. Only, I can do that.
So, at the moments where I am feeling the most isolation, I log onto Twitter and Facebook or pull one of my favorite keeper books off the shelf and remind myself that while my work requires a kind of isolation I am not alone. There are hundreds and thousands of writers feeling the same fears and the same inadequacies…possibly the same authors whose books I have read over and over again. That we all have to face the fear of sitting down at a blank page with the obligation of filling it. And that in the end we all find a way to do just that.