Books for when the nights are long: winter reading list

While the northern hemisphere is starting to break out its beach reads to get ready for warm, sunny days and relaxed afternoons by the pool, here on the flip side of the world the days are short, the rain is frequent, and the temperature is low. Winter is always when I like to dive into some meaty, challenging books. Of course, I still mix in plenty of fantasy (I’m currently reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy for the first time) and fun (hoping the copy of Jake Tapper’s The Hellfire Club I’ve put on hold at the library comes in soon), but there’s no better time to really get stuck in to something long and complicated than when you have no motivation to go outside all day. Here are a couple of books that are on my winter reading list:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I only recently found out that Eleanor Catton is a New Zealand author, and that the book is set in New Zealand, and so although it’s been on my to-read list since 2014 (according to goodreads) I am determined to finally read it while I am still in New Zealand. To be honest, what has mostly deterred me up until this point is simply the length; I always try to finish books when I start them, and 800+ pages is a big commitment from an author I have never read before. But it’s apparently a historical fiction ghost story, which sounds right up my alley, so I’m definitely going to give it a go.

Continue reading “Books for when the nights are long: winter reading list”

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Being a Writer When You’re a Writer

“Being a writer” has a low bar to entry. It’s not like “being an engineer”—you don’t have to work as a writer or be trained as a writer or ever publish a word of your writing. You just have to write. Being a writer as a career obviously takes a little more effort. I am a writer by nature and by trade—for the last two years I’ve spent somewhere between two and ten hours a day, five days a week, writing. It’s not what people would consider “glamorous” writing, creating product copy for ecommerce websites; it’s not being a novelist or a features writer or any of my “dream” writing jobs, but it’s nice to be able to say that I pay my bills as a writer.

Plenty of writers have no interest or ability to write as a profession, and simply write in their free time as a hobby. Sometimes I envy that. Too often, after a full day of writing for work the last thing I want to do in my free time is open up Scrivener and start on my own projects. Even on weekends when I haven’t been writing all day, I feel as though I want a day off from this thing that I supposedly love and feel endlessly passionate about. This is where I admit that I haven’t finished so much as a short story in nearly a year. Heck, I’ve barely even started so much as a short story in that time. And you, dear readers, have seen how infrequently I manage to even update this blog.

Sometimes the self-doubt creeps in and I think that perhaps I’m not a writer. Maybe I’m a non-writer who just happens to write for a living. I know this is the kind of self-doubt that nearly every writer struggles with; twitter is full of jokes from amateur and professional writers about the trials and tribulations of putting words on the page.

The recipe is simple: to be a writer, you must write. You must write when you’re tired, or sad, or after you’ve written all day for work. You must especially write when you feel like every word that spews out is pure shit. Thriller writer Harlan Coben said, “You can alway fix bad pages. You can’t fix no pages.”

Stephen King said that he writes 2000 words each and every day. I know from several years’ experience participating in NaNoWriMo, where the daily average goal is 1667, words that writing 2000 words can take an hour or twelve, depending on the day. Obviously, that’s not feasible for everyone, whether they write for their job or not. But what I must learn to better remind myself is that ending a day having written a single word on a personal project leaves me with one more word than I started with, and sometimes that’s enough.

I won’t be participating in NaNo* this year—for most of November I’ll be visiting Ireland and toward the end Steve and I will be moving across the world to New Zealand where I’ll almost certainly be too preoccupied searching for housing and a job. I can’t commit to writing 2000 words a day, or maybe even 200. But I’m a writer, and so I must write.

* For the uninitiated: November is National Novel Writing Month, where thousands around the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Published novels that began as NaNo projects include The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.