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30 Frustrations of Being a Writer

A woman frustrated with her writing
Frustrated Writer

I bet when you read the title a slew of fear and frustrations started filling your thoughts about various aspects of publishing (which, obviously, is one of the main goals of writing). You’re not alone.

Last week, well-known editors and other key employees at Penguin Random House were let go. Various news outlets, including the AP, New York magazine, and others reported that the managing editor at Knopf took a buyout, as did the head of production and head of publicity. Sixty was the number of employees at Penguin that the New York Times reported were either let go or took buyouts. Publisher's Weekly reports that the layoffs and buyouts are part of a "generational shift," whatever that means. At 51, I have my thoughts, but I'll keep them to myself.

For those of us worrying about Artificial Intelligence (AI), which literary agents to query, which publishers accept unsolicited submissions, what contests and literary journals we should enter and send our babies, whether to try to publish traditionally or self-publish, what to write about, the cover and titles of our books, the sales numbers, the reviews, etcetera, the fact that a behemoth like PRH, while being a scary thing, is also a frustrating thing, especially if you've been writing for any period of time. If you're like me, you're asking yourself "What does it all mean‽"

Ignore reviews, even good ones.

Writing, as most of you reading this know, is a many armed beast that slaps us around from head to toe, tearing our hearts out 99% of the time and blasting us to the moon the other 1%. It’s a routine task (writing) that everyone, and probably daily, performs to achieve some outcome. Fiction writers, however, view writing differently. Yes, we write emails, and we write notes, create lists and type up contracts, just like everyone else. But we also strive to create experiences and worlds and drama, and the act of doing this type of writing is where the frustrating part of writing begins in earnest. But we get frustrated by a lot of other things as well, which is what I realized the news of Penguin Random House's layoffs and buyouts did to me.

It got me thinking: What frustrates me about writing? What drives me crazy as I navigate the desire to write full-time and make a living doing it? So I compiled a list of my frustrations as a writer, but also added the frustrations I see other writers voicing in articles, blog posts, social media, and in print. Here they are:

Here are 30 Frustrations of Being a Writer:

1. Finding time to write.

2. Writing crap first drafts and thinking we suck.

3. Not knowing what to write about.

4. Having to do research.

5. Having people ask us if they would know our work (assuming we're published).

6. Having people tell us that when they have some time they’re going to write a book (It's

hard not to be sarcastic in our response).

7. Having people “give” us “great” book ideas so we can go write them. (This one's a pet

peeve of mine).

8. Having writer’s block (fyi, I don’t believe in writer’s block).

9. Distractions from iPhones, emails, people walking in on us while we're writing,

someone outside jackhammering the sidewalk).

10. Imposter syndrome. (Every writer, or most of us, at one point in time, has it. It's fine. It

means nothing).

12. Not being able to get a literary agent.

13. Not being able to get a book acquired once you have an agent.

14. Lack of sales (assuming you have a published book to sell to begin with).

15. Having to market our work. (We're writers! We aren't marketers, right? Wrong. But we

have to be).

16. Bad reviews (with or without comments included). Ignore reviews, even good ones.

Just move on to the next book.

17. Trying to figure out which social media to use and how best to do it. Social media

sucks. But it's a necessary evil.

18. Low returns. Meaning your book isn't selling, for whatever reason, and you've put time,

money, energy, etc. in for little reward.

19. Deciding between trying to get published traditionally versus self-publishing. It's a

personal choice, but it's a major one.

20. The cost of editors. Editors are necessary. Beta readers are great. But you need them

(DEs, SEs, proofreaders, copyeditors, etc.).

21. The cost of cover designers. Primarily for self-published authors. I see alot of sub-par

covers. Spend the money. It's worth it.

22. Having to find beta readers.

23. Having to beg for blurbs. This is an especially painful one, especially if you don't have a

writing community. Rejection sucks.

24. Figuring out how to make a living while pursuing our dream of writing full time. You do

what you have to do--writing is the goal.

25. Catching typos or errors in our already-published books. It sucks. But it happens, even

at the bigs. Do your self-editing, and just fix it for next time.

26. Reading shit novels and watching them sell a million copies. We all know the examples,

so I won't mention them. But they exist.

27. Reading great novels and watching them go unnoticed by everyone. Same here. Plenty

of writers are "discovered" after they die.

28. Criticism. Now, if you can't take criticism, writing's probably not for you. But

sometimes, it hurts. Bad. Keep on trucking.

29. Rejection. Put it in your brain right now: Everyone gets rejected at some point in time.

It's part of the process. Deal with it.

30. Wanting to give up. Well, let me tell you, writers, real ones, don't give up. Because they

can't. Real writers don't write because simply because they want money, or fame, or a

library full of books with their name on it. They write because they can't not

write. If that's you, you're a writer. If it ain't, take up coding or selling real estate or day

trading. You'll make more money faster, and you probably won't get as frustrated. But

if you get up every morning with those characters yelling at you in your head, and

you're thinking about plot and scene and description, you're probably a writer.

Figure out how to make a living while pursuing your dream of writing full time

Obviously this list can go on forever, and I'm sure I've missed plenty of the frustrations you face on a daily basis when it comes to writing. If you have some I've left out, please sign up and drop them in the comments. Would love to hear what bothers you the most about this wonderfully frustrating craft we've chosen to pursue. Happy Writing!

Are you ready for an editor? Contact us at to discuss your project and how we can get it to submission-ready status.

All my best,

Cully Perlman


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