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Collated Answers from WW interviews

What's the worst thing about writing?
Al Hunter AshtonBeing on your own. Iím a party animal.
  
Alan WilliamsThe loneliness. In reality the only chance to share my ideas and successes are with my family and Write Words. France is not a hotbed of writing groups. Obviously the rejection letters are disappointing but as Harlan Ellison wrote in Pain God, (and I paraphrase here) one canít appreciate the elation of Ďacceptancesí without experiencing the pain of failures.
  
Ali McNamaraSitting still so much, definitely. I used to be a fitness instructor so I was very active all day. Writing involves too much sitting down at a desk Ė not good for the fitness levels or the figure!
  
Andrew BlackmanThe feeling that Iíve only expressed a tiny fraction of what I really wanted to say.
  
Anne BrookeThe knock-backs. Boy, how they floor me. Yes, they do. No matter how many other marvellous things are happening, one rejection can make me feel like it's simply not worth it and I have no abilities whatsoever. That may of course be my manic-depressive tendencies speaking but, my goodness, those tendencies can make themselves known in no uncertain terms when they wish to. And I dread the moments when I have no idea where my characters or storyline are going, and I'm floundering around like a gaffed salmon on the bedsheets (to misquote Wodehouse). That's hell too.
  
Ardella JonesSettling down to it when Frasierís on daytime TV.
  
Beanie BabyThe worst thing is that my thoughts never ever leave it and I find that incredibly frustrating when I know I have to go to the office every day. It is all-consuming and 24 hour - even my sleep is disturbed by it. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
  
Bill SpenceFor me the worst thing about writing is finishing the book and having to leave the characters I have become close to and know so well, but there are new people to meet in the book ahead.
  
Cally TaylorNear constant self-doubt and worry.
  
Candi MillerSitting on your bottom, all alone in front of the keyboard, for days, months, years on end.
  
Candy Denman What's the worst thing about writing?

When you have just sent the completed script off and are waiting for the producer/director/script editor to get back to you with their comments. Thatís when you suddenly realise the hero canít solve it that way, the baddie is in two places at once, and the whole plot hinges round something that canít really happen.
  
Caroline RanceThe feeling that, because it doesn't bring in a regular income, I'm not allowed to take it seriously. Some people still seem to see it as a cute hobby to keep my little brain occupied while I'm sitting at home doing nothing except looking after a toddler. I wish society would accept that some things are worth doing even if they don't attract a wage.
  
Cassandra ClareIt can get very lonely
  
Catherine CooperWaiting. Iím not a patient person and find the pace of the submissions process soooooo sloooooooow.

  
Catherine RichardsHaving lots of ideas and not enough time to get them written down.
  
Cathy GlassNothing for me. I love every stage of the writing process, from that furiously scribbled first draft, to the endless revision where the manuscript magically transforms before your very eyes, to the final proof reading. To create a piece of writing, whether it is a paragraph or full length manuscript, is sheer joy for me.
  
Christina CourtenayI donít really think it has many downsides for me. I love writing and everything involved in the process. Of course it can be frustrating when it doesnít quite flow the way you want it to, but thatís something you have to accept and work around.
  
Claire AllenFinding the time! As a full time journalist and also a mother of a three year old it can be hard to find time. Alongside that, when I'm really into the writing process I find it hard to switch the characters off in my head. They are always fighting to get out- so at times I'm covering the local news fixtures, planning what to cook for the wee man's tea and trying to keep my MC quiet until I can actually sit down in front of the lap top.
  
Claire MossThe constant self-doubt. I don't think you can be a good writer unless you are endlessly critical of your work, but it does leave you with a nagging sense of not being good enough.
  
Courttia NewlandThe money.

  
Craig BaxterThe self-absorption and time spent inside your own head when you could be out there having a real life
  
Danny RhodesThe only thing that frustrates me about writing is not being able to afford to do it full time, but Iím working on that!
  
Dawn FinchOh, that one is easy! Editing your own work. That is a ghastly process of reading and re-reading and going over every fine point for repetition, lost meaning, possible confusion and flow. That whole process is agony Ė and I canít have a glass of wine doing it as I canít afford for my concentration to drift off! Having to be brutal and critical over your own work is so hard. I know that it will be edited at the publishers and so when Iím getting down to fine points like commas it is a little bit like tidying your hotel room before the maid comes Ė but I still prefer to do it for myself.
  
Deborah SwiftI suppose the general angst and insecurity that I always think my writingís not quite good enough. But it doesnít stop the itch to do it
  
Diane SamuelsThe loneliness sometimes, the lack of daily support by others and not having a regular paycheck..
  
Domenica De RosaFor me, there is no down side.
  
Elizabeth BuchanI think one had to guard against being thoroughly neurotic. A harsh verdict from a critic or a reader can plunge me into gloom. But I am aware that you will never learn if you ignore the bad review. It is a painful, but necessary, process and if you flinch facing up to the mistakes, then you do yourself a disservice.
  
Emilia di Girolamo The fact that it takes a long time to make it financially successful unless you are very lucky or have a truly unique talent and that you have to do other things to supplement your income. In terms of TV, the fact that it takes so long to get the work from script to screen so I can't be as topical as I might like.
  
Eva SalzmanGetting started. Each time. Secretarial and domestic drudgery.
  
Eve AinsworthThe self-doubt never goes away, and itís an evil beast.
  
Fiona RobynI seem to have to overcome huge resistance whilst writing first drafts, and have to force myself to my desk!
  
Gary DavisonPeople interrupting you.
  
George SzirtesNothing bad. The worst thing is not writing.
  
Gillian McClureSilence when I donít want it; publishersí silence; answer phones that say, ĎYou have no messagesí.
  
Gordon and WilliamsRG: Not being able to.

BW: Editors (Haha!)
  
Helen BlackSelf doubt. I always think everythingís rubbish.
  
Helen CastorItís really hard. For me, at least! Every word is like getting blood out of a stone.
  
Helen McWilliamsFor me, sometimes itís finding the time as Iím a parent to a toddler who wants to take the pen from my hand or play with the laptop if I need to quickly make a note of an idea that I donít want to lose! Thatís frustrating!
  
Jae Watson
Never being as good as I want to be
  
James BurgeThe fact that first drafts always read like teeth-clenchingly embarrassing rubbish. It always comes out all right in the end but I can never seem to get it right first time.
  
Jane ElmorSelf-discipline when you work on your own is always the killer. Making sure you get up and don't spend the day in a dressing gown, surfing the net or watching daytime TV. Talking to yourself and forgetting how to behave in polite society. The desire for wine at lunchtime and a snooze in the afternoon. The craving for a fag when you get stuck, even though you gave up years ago. The enormous mountain of unwritten words you have to face at the start of a novel. Knowing that there is the perfect word, phrase or metaphor out there somewhere for what you want to express and not being able to find it. Having to be ruthless during edits Ė it's painful slashing things out that you've spent ages crafting. (Save the amputated parts somewhere though Ė it makes it hurt less to think you could use them in something else some time.)
  
Jane RogersThe solitude.
  
JemThe ups and downs, the lack of ideas that occasionally occurs, the fear of rejection, the certainty that youíll never get another idea after this one, the cheque thatís in the post, God where do I start? Like they say on the X-factor - Itís a rollercoaster of emotions.
  
Jenn AshworthThe fact that you never know how it is going to work out. I don't plan, I type away in the dark until a shape or a voice appears. It's horrible and frightening to think of how much time I've wasted getting to an idea. I'm a slow and wasteful writer - much more than half gets thrown away, because, as I said, I have to write it out before I can think it or see it.
  
Jill McGiveringThe re-writing Ė again and again and againÖ
  
Jim YoungerI donít think thereís any Ďworst thingí about writing, or the best either. ďLife is a Roller Coaster, Just gotta ride it,Ē as Mr Keating wrote. But yes, like when you hit your stride on a great fiddle tune, there are moments of exultation - and moments near despair too, and all sorts of crazy feelings that go along with the whole trip.
  
John MurrayThe worst thing about writing in my case has been the ups and downs of getting published. Aidan Ellis did two more of my books; Kin(1986) and Pleasure(1987).The latter was a book of stories that won the Dylan Thomas Award in 1988. But he turned down Radio Activity(subtitled 'A Cumbrian Tale in Five Emissions') and my agent also ditched me once they saw it. It went round 35 publishers unagented before a tiny outfit called Sunk Island published it in 1993. It was immediately chosen as a Book of the Year in the Spectator and Independent and got rave reviews from Jonathan Coe and DJ Taylor. The lesson there is I suppose never give up and don't always believe what the publishers and agents tell you! They're not infallible, though they like to pretend that they are.

Since then I've been with Flambard who have really looked after me. They're only a small press and there are no great financial rewards, but they've done four of my novels in five years and a reissue of Radio Activity to boot. John Dory(2001) a spiritual thriller about a man and a fish, got some great reviews in the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Times etc. Jazz Etc(2003)was longlisted for the Booker and that really affected its sales. Murphy's Favourite Channels(2004)was a Novel of the Week in the Daily Telegraph.

The other tough thing about writing is when you've managed to get a book published and the reviews aren't happening. I have a couple of friends who've struggled for decades (literally) to get in print and once it's happened they haven't had a single review. That is to say the least very demoralising. I've been lucky myself. Murphy's Favourite Channels got 10 reviews in the national papers and only 2 of them were bad ones!
  
John RitchieNot having enough time and/or money to devote yourself entirely to it. Though even as I write that, I know it is a cop-out. You can always find what you need of either, if you really want to.

Okay, the next worse thing is doubting yourself, and your ability to write. That can get you into the dreaded Ground Hog Day where you write Chapter One Page One over and over again as you seek that elusive perfection. AARRGGH!

Maybe I should just leave you with this - The problem with being a writer

  
Jon HaylettI am, effectively, a full-time writer now, and there is little that I find unpleasant until a book or a story is ready to be presented to the outside world. With short stories, I send them to competitions, which is relatively painless, but interesting agents and publishers in a book is a gruelling battle
  
Jonathan WolfmanDisciplining yourself to do it when no oneís paying you or giving you a deadline. You have to be self-motivated. Dealing with rejection was the worst, but you have to get used to it. Also dealing with your own negativity. Itís very easy to lose heart and think you are crap.
  
Josa YoungNot being able to write fiction due to one crisis after another. And understanding that looking at Amazon rankings is a form of madness. Isabel Wolff has come up with the brilliant phrase Ďnovel gazingí for this insane activity.
  
Julia BellNot being able to listen to the radio at the same time. (As I imagine all artists must be able to do . . . )
  
Julia CopusHaving to be self-disciplined. Itís easy enough to sit down at your desk when youíve already got your teeth into something Ė and itís much easier if youíre working on a longer project, or something with a narrative thread which you can pick up each morning. After Iíd written my first radio play (which took me only a few weeks), I realised to my horror that it contained roughly the same number of words as a whole poetry collection. A poetry collection often takes years to finish. I think thatís because each new poem is like a new project, and each new project takes a little time to feel your way into. The trick might be to have several things on the go at once. Iím experimenting with this at the moment!
  
Kal BonnerI've just discovered that the worst thing about writing, is trying to answer a question about the worst thing about writing. Apart from being Liverpool FC's masseur, it has to be the best job in the world.
  
Kate LongIíve found the business of self-promotion hard. I was always taught as a child not to push myself forward, and really you have to if youíre going to publicise a book.
  
Kate TymItís really, really, really hard to consistently make money. There can be periods of feast Ė but thereís a lot of famine too.

  
Kia AbdullahHaving to be extremely self-disciplined. There may be days on end where you donít feel inspired and you donít want to write but you have to be disciplined and take the time out to sit down and write. Otherwise, you would never get a manuscript finished.
  
Kit PeelReading most first draftsÖ
  
Laura WatsonIt can be lonely at times and the work can be unpredictable.
  
Lee HenshawIím too enthusiastic about writing to consider the worst thing about it. Iíve heard talk of the tyranny of the blank page, the famous writersí block, but Van Gogh said why should a painter be afraid of a blank canvas, a blank canvas should be afraid of the painter. I thrash every page I write on until it submits.
  
Lee JacksonThe process of writing Ė sitting alone in a room at a keyboard and typing Ė is a repetitive and mundane one, no matter how creatively satisfying the results. But I canít quite see any other way of doing it. The rewards, too, are rather peculiar. The ultimate result Ė the finished book Ė is a massively deferred pleasure (about nine months in my case). You have to be rather stubborn or obsessive to stick at it Ė a sensible person just would not bother.
  
Lola JayeSometimes itís just so hard to get the motivation going- especially when stuff like changing the vase water suddenly seems like the most important thing in the world. But luckily, once you start itís easier to really get into it and then itís all lovely again. But then thereís the dreaded writers block. Donít get me started on thatÖ
  
A L BerridgeThe compulsion. The not having a choice whether you write or not, but being totally bloody forced to do it in order to get the story out of your head before you go mad.
  
Lucy McCarraherWith two small children, the village community and some occasional work-life balance commissions to attend to, the only downside is not having enough time to write. Otherwise nothing. Being a full time novelist would be the fulfillment of a dream and so far I havenít found a downside to the writing itself. So far the publicity/marketing side has been quite fun, but I could get tired and stressed with that.
  
Luisa PlajaAching for more time to write. Oh, also banishing that annoying inner critic. I've got a really loud one here. Grr, go away.
  
Malcolm BurgessRunning out of black Bic fine point biros and having to write with the stubby one you were sent by the RSBP.
  
Maria McCarthyGetting started.




  
Mark BoothThe time that gets eaten up whenever I sit down to start writing and I should be doing something more useful. Time goes so quickly these days that I feel guilty just answering this questionnaire. Iím keeping my answers deliberately short.
  
Mark Liam PiggottRejection
  
Matt LynnThe middle. The beginning of a book is great because it is a fresh start. And the end is great because it is exciting (if it isnít, thereís something wrong with your book!). But between 40,000 and 60,000 words is a slog.
  
Meg PeacockeThe superstitious fear that overcomes me, when Iíve finished a poem, that I may never make another. I donít believe it, but I still canít stop the fear kicking in.
  
Michael RidpathRejection. All writers experience it at some stage in their career, usually at the beginning. For me it was in the middle. You know you shouldnít take it personally, but it is impossible not to. I sometimes think successful people are just those who donít give up.
  
Michelene WandorHaving to Ďauditioní for each new commission; itís also worth remembering that there is an enormous amount of admin work attached to being a writer. It sometimes feels as though too much time goes on this admin, before one can actually get down to the writing itself. But that goes with the territory. The insecurity is absolutely the worst thing.
  
Michelle Harrison
Thereís not really much that I donít like about it. My only niggle is thinking youíve got a good idea or plot-line only to find that someone else has already done it. This has only happened to me once and luckily it was with a very small part of the story, but it can still be frustrating.
  
Milly JohnsonNeurotic feelings that my books wonít be bought and my career will end Ė because Iím not fit for anything else!
  
Neil ForsythWaiting for news.
  
Neil J HartThe hardest, and therefore I suppose the worst thing about writing, is not knowing whether what youíre writing is any good. Are the characters interesting enough, will people connect with the plot, will they get it, do I get it, has this all been done before? Itís important to challenge yourself and your writing, otherwise how can we evolve as writers? I keep a small group of close friends and writers that give brutal, honest feedback on ideas and writing work but essentially youíre on your own.
  
Neil NixonThe uncertainties around whether projects in development will ever get to production. Also the often painful collision between things I care about and the grim realities of the market.
  
Nick GriffithsThe compulsion to self-motivate.
  
Nick StaffordThe fallow times when you feel youíve no imagination left and the barren times when nobody wants you.
  
Nicky SingerIt never goes away.


  
Nik PerringWithout the shadow of a doubt: the waiting. The whole industry, through little fault of its own, appears so slow to writers. Thereís the months of waiting for responses from agents and publishers Ė and then even once everythingís agreed and signed it can be months (sometimes even years) before your book is released. I think the lesson to be learned from that is that you donít need to rush anything where your writingís concerned. Take your time and make sure you get it right.

Being such a solitary process it can get a wee bit lonely. Being a member of the fab writewords community helps with that though.

Oh, and hearing the hoover start up when youíre trying desperately to concentrate comes a close second!


  
Patricia CumperThe worst thing about writing is the uncertainty of the life, not knowing from year to year how you are going to survive. It may also be a good thing as it does spur you on, helps you focus on finding the next story you want to tell.
  
Patrick DillonNot knowing whether somethingís working or not.

  
Paul ReedThe nerves before a reading. It can be terrifying. It's all about controlling yourself in the end.
  
Peter RobertsonThe monastic aspect but there is simply no other way if you are to get down to it. I am a gregarious man by nature and a large part of me thrives on the cut-and-thrust of the world. That said, I can cope with the loneliness of the writing vocation. I have had a lot of illness in my lifeóone illness, which was diagnosed in my early thirties, was devastating and lasted for fifteen years. I was confined to bed for long stretches, saw virtually no-one in the early stages, and was forced to look inwards. During this time I had no option but to come to terms with myself. So I now have the inner resources to shut myself in a room and will the world to recede.
  
Preethi NairThe solitude
  
Rebecca ConnellI thought for a long time about this, because I canít find much wrong with writing! I suppose it would have to be the necessity to do it even when you donít feel like it. My writing motto is, ďA man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to itĒ (Samuel Johnson), and I do try to keep to that, but it can be very hard to plough on when you donít feel inspired. I know from experience that if I work through it, no matter how terrible I think my writing is, I will look more kindly on it in retrospect. I donít tend to suffer from serious writerís block, and I think my willingness to ďstick it outĒ when the going is tough is the reason for this, but it can certainly feel unpleasant at the time.
  
Rebecca StrongNot having enough time to write, or having the time and wasting it.
  
Ron MorgansThe book publishing system. Itís antiquated. I helped Eddie Shah launch the Today newspaper with new colour technology in 1986. The publishing industry is just getting round to using it now.
  
Rosy BarnesThe old clichť: people asking whether you're going to be the next JK Rowling of course! (They DO do this, even to me - I mean does Sadomasochism for Accountants sound like a kidís book to you?)

And people asking ďwhat itís about?Ē which normally provokes the response, ďErr, umm, itís about this bunch of accountants, right? And this bunch of sadomasochists andÖĒ I HATE people asking what my bookís about. (It does make sense when you read it. It does! It does!)
  
Rosy ThorntonThere arenít any bad things about writing. Not for me, though there are plenty for my family (ďMum?Ē Ė ďShut up Iím writing!Ē). But there are plenty of horrible things about having things rejected by agent and/or editor, which has happened to me a fair bit even after getting my agent (one completed novel in 2005 rejected by the agent, another completed novel last year which hit the editorial rocks, and 40,000 words of yet another this past winter which my agent chucked outÖ.). My productivity is on the manic side but my hit rate is pretty damn low!
  
Sally NichollsWith Ways to Live Forever it felt like Iíd solve one problem and six more would appear. I wrote the book in lots of disparate scenes. This was wonderfully liberating when I started, because Iíd think ďThere should be a scene about snow and it should go somewhere near the endĒ or ďSam would like that story, that will go somewhere in the middleĒ and then Iíd just write it without worrying. The problem came when I tried to sew them all together with something approximating narrative thread. I think I wrote twelve entirely different opening scenes, for example, before I found one that I liked. Other problems included getting the tone light enough to appeal to children without trivialising the issue, getting all the medical details right and having it address all the philosophical and emotional questions that I wanted it to address, while keeping it funny and interesting.

  
Sally ZigmondGetting going in the morning. I waste so much time after Iíve switched on the computer, checking emails and catching up on blogs, websites, and forums such as Write Words! I tell myself that because theyíre all writing-related, that itís relevant and essentialówhich they areóbut theyíre also classic displacement activity.
  
Sara MaitlandThe fact that I never do as much or do it as well as I would like to and know I could.
  
Sarah SalwayWhen people who are not writers tell me how they would write too, if only they had the time.
  
Sarah StovellIf you want to look at it as a job, thereís not much money in it and no security. I have no idea whether anyone will still want to publish me two years from now.
  
Shelley WeinerWaiting for responses. At every level. For me, it never gets easier and Iíll never get thicker-skinned about it. Itís kind of comforting that Ė although some writers are better than others at showing it Ė everyone feels vulnerable. The problem is that the publishing business is a hard-nosed one and it deals, on the whole, with sensitive souls. Rejection and the fear that we have nothing more to say is something we all have to deal with.
  
ShikaWell, there's a certain lack of credibility until one is published, no? I think blogging, competitions and opportunities to read work out can help but I think this legitimacy or lack thereof is a huge challenge for the unpublished writer.

The other issue is the lack of focussed support for those of us who are yet to bag an agent and or a publisher. It seems odd to me that here you have an industry that has to rely on a steady stream of new writers for content and yet does nothing to seek out, sustain or hone new talent. Seems like an odd way to plan for the long term and I'm not aware of any other industry that does not try to build long-term alliances with potential suppliers based on old-fashioned transparency and trust.

  
Sion Scott-WilsonIsolation and viruses. I hate viruses, I hate the people who create
them. I keep smashing keyboards. Now that I use a mac, I keep
smashing keyboards.
  
Smith BrowneSpelling.
  
Sol B RiverOh dear .... er ... many things, money has so far eluded me and that unfortunately has a bearing on when I can write. I'm only as good as my last play. It's quite painful for me (the actual writing) even in a pleasurable way. It's all engrossing, so time passes very quickly and very slowly or just stands still. I live on the edge of the city centre so many times in-between writing scenes I will walk into town wondering what I'm doing with my life..... that's probably the problem, I should be thinking what I going to do with the scene.
  
Stella DuffyHaving to keep going when Iíd like to just write A Ö C Ö.P Ö and then Z, but have to fill in the gaps.
  
Steve FeaseyThe guilt you feel when you donít write. Iím hopeless at organising myself, and Iíve a propensity to faff around when I should be tapping away at the keys of my laptop. When I have a couple of days in which I havenít written very much I tend to kick myself around a bit and get moody.
  
Steven HagueThe worst thing about being a writer is the fact that you have to stay positive Ė you have to constantly live in hope: hope that youíll find an agent, hope that youíll find a publisher, and hope that youíll find an audience - two out of threeís a start and Iím working on the third.
  
Sue MoorcroftRejections. We all get them, in some form. Even in contracted manuscripts an editor will ask for substantial changes. Rejections are part of a writerís life and I accept them and learn from them. But, groany groan, who likes them?
  
Tania HershmanHaving to be alone to do it, and needing to get away from family and friends and shut the door. I feel like I push people away, but for me there is no other way to be a writer.

  
Tim LottThe boredom.
  
Tony McGowanIt can be lonely and boring and, as I suggested above, it turns you into a crank. And Iíve lost some good friends who thought they saw themselves in my characters, and didnít like it. Plus, unless you strike it lucky, the pay is rubbish!
  
Tracy BuchananForgetting to eat!



  
Vanessa Curtisilt for not doing it. Guilt for doing it. Wasting days. Comparing myself unfavourably to other novelists. The long periods of time when I have to wait: waiting for inspiration, waiting to find time to write, waiting to hear from agents, then publishers, etc. The way that writing is so tied in with my sense of self-worth Ė it shouldnít be, but it is. The incredible odds stacked against success of any kind Ė is there any other career where you work alone on projects for maybe years at a time with no guarantee of any recognition at the end of it?
  
Vanessa GebbieThe fact that it creeps up on you when you arenít prepared. If a story wants to be written, it wants to be written NOW. Not in five minutes, or tomorrow. NOW. It gets in the way of family life, thatís for sure. And I think I have probably lost quite a few friends since I started writing seriously.
  
William ColesI don't know about the "worst thing" - it's all part of the process. I love writing and if you're a writer then you know it's going to be a slog. But ... oh yes! I know! Editing! This is not my forte. Going through draft after draft and tweaking and fiddling, until I haven't got a damn clue whether the first draft was better than the tenth. That's why I adore writing for newspapers. You write your whole story in four hours flat, read through it once, send it, and bingo - it's in the next day's paper. Books have the gestation period of an elephant. I'm not especially good, as they say, at "killing my little darlings".

  
William SuttonThe lack of imposed structure.
  
Zoe Lambert
How you invest so much of yourself in it. Whatever itís about, it is intensely personal. After a while I learnt to distance myself from it.
  
Zoe WilliamsOh, you know, sometimes everything that comes out of your head is just horrible, but youíre in a rush and youíre not a perfectionist at the best of times, so you just send it in, and they come back to you 17 times with changes because they know itís shit but they canít put their finger on why, and 17 times later, itís just as bad as it was in the first place, but itís taken 17 times as long.