We’re All in This Together: Surprise! Things You Didn’t Know About the Writing Life Post #2

What is the hardest thing you didn’t know you’d encounter as a writer?

Why did that thing surprise you and how did you handle it?

These were questions I posed to our WAITT writers. Take a look at yesterday’s post also for more surprises about being a writer.


EW Clark

YA / MG Novelist


Ever heard of Zeno’s paradoxes?  One illustrates the impossibility of completing an infinite number of tasks:  to get to a destination, you have to get halfway there, then halfway between that point and the destination, halfway between that … and so on and on forever.  The point is that if you’re always going halfway, even though your margin gets tiny, you never arrive at the end.

That’s how being a writer can sometimes feel, in a way that surprised me. I’ve been a writer all my life, and I knew how to get an idea to a complete draft.  But when I decided to devote myself to it, and really go for it — I was just surprised by how infinite the steps are.  It’s not just because revision is hard, and the publishing world moves slowly, but also because my goals keep changing.  I mean — first my goal was to revise really really well, and then my goal was to find an agent.  Each of those steps felt so huge!  And now the goal for that novel is finding an editor to fall in love with it — then the goal will be awaiting publication — then seeing if anyone notices — and then doing the same with the next novel (which I sent to my agent in June!).

Diana Wynne Jones said something like, “I always wanted to write the perfect novel, the novel I wanted to read as a child.  I’ve never quite done it, but I keep on trying.”

That’s part of what I mean — the game of reaching for some kind of ending, a completion, in this, well, it’s hard.  I’ll keep, I hope, getting closer — closer and closer — but I’ll never ever be done.  I’m not complaining — this is what I’ve chosen, and I’m so happy to be where I am, so happy to be doing what I’m doing — but it was a bit of a shock, I will say, when I realized that writing “THE END” on that last page didn’t mean quite that at all!


Vivian Kirkfield

Educator – Parenting Speaker – Author

Picture Books Help Kids Soar


We all have fears. Acknowledging them and then finding ways to cope with or overcome them is what life is all about. I’m afraid of the water…but I’ve walked under the ocean with a Jules Verne-type breathing apparatus on my head. I’m afraid of heights…but I’ve gone skydiving. However, my biggest fears were public speaking and meeting new people! Standing up in front of a large audience has always brought on the classic anxiety/panic attack symptoms…sweaty palms, a racing pounding heart and a feeling that my mind is totally blank and I might pass out. Having to walk into a room where I didn’t know anyone or go somewhere I had never been before, would often cause me to cancel plans or refrain from making them. I never realized that becoming a writer would force me to confront these terrors of mine.

After my parenting book was published, I knew that if I wanted the book on shelves in libraries, bookstores and people’s homes, it was up to me to get it out there. I took an online Build Book Buzz class with Sandra Beckwith (can’t say enough great things about her and the course) and I learned what I would need to do. But could I? I’ve come a long way in the last few years in regards to these terrors of mine. I’ve walked into libraries and bookstores and asked if they would like to have my book on their shelves. I’ve done book events and parent/teacher workshops and presentations. But when I flew to Singapore (my first international flight) in May to speak at the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content, I took a giant step. To be honest, it has been the support and encouragement I’ve received from this entire kid lit community that gave me the courage to take that leap of faith.


Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Children’s and Young Adult Writer


I think that the thing that’s surprised me the most is that every writer struggles with inadequacies. I’ve been writing seriously for many years and have yet to land an agent or a book deal. I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and submit and submit and submit. I’ve had nibbles, great rejection letters, requests for rewrites—things close enough to the edge to make me keep writing.

But I know that I’m not alone.

I have friends who have agents and have written brilliant books but haven’t yet gotten book deals. I have friends who are multi-published who still have to go through the worry of the “next book” not getting published. I have friends who’ve published dozens of books who are still getting rejections.

We’re all in this together.

Everyone struggles with something. There is no “easy” road. Almost every road is paved with hard work. And frustration. And rejection. And few guarantees.

The thing that surprises me the most about this writing life is that no matter what level you get to, there will still be struggles to face. Feelings of inadequacies to overcome. We have to love the process of writing—the inkling of an idea or image, the months of wiggling that idea or image into story, the even more months of shaping and reshaping that story into understandable words. Because once it leaves the safety of our hands, we can’t predict what will happen next.


Now, you tell us:

What is the hardest thing you didn’t know you’d encounter as a writer?

Why did that thing surprise you and how did you handle it?

Feel free to share in the comments.


  1. Liz Garcia says:

    Oh I am so glad to have read this, today (esp. EW and Marcie’s thoughts). It’s funny– some days, I think that if I simply could stop writing and stop being involved in writing I would. It would be the prudent, sanity-saving thing to do. I think the only people who write are those who have an inexplicable compulsion/need to do it. It’s great to see how many others share the same difficulties and disappointments (and also joys). Thanks, Marcie, for organizing this series!

    • Liz, I totally agree. My life would be so much simpler if I didn’t see a story or a poem in everything!!! It keeps me up at night, gets me up early, it totally sabotages everything!


  1. […] I also contribute to Marcie Finch Atkins ‘We’re All Together in This’ […]