The Writing Life isn’t for Sissies

If you plan to be a writer, you can't be a sissy.One of my favorite blogs is Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour. I especially enjoy their “bad advice” columns on Wednesdays, which usually don’t contain bad advice. One of their latest Wednesday pieces has stayed with me, probably because it’s an idea I’ve been contemplating.

The idea has to do with resilience. Writers have to be tough. They have to be able to take a beating from editors, publishers, and employers. They have to be able to analyze the beating and understand what punches or kicks are relevant. They then have to write again and endure more beatings, more criticisms, more – everything. If they can’t handle those things, they stop writing.

They also stop writing if they don’t maintain a sort of tenderness. In some cases, they don’t stop writing, but their writing ceases to resonate with anyone. Yes, writers have to be able to take the hard knocks, but they also have to be able to empathize. They have to remain open to the world and to new experiences. Without empathy and without openness, their writing withers. It becomes a wasteland rather than an oasis waiting to greet weary travelers.

How do writers maintain a necessary toughness and tenderness? I wish I had an easy answer for the question. I don’t. It’s difficult to be tough and tender at the same time, but it’s a necessary difficulty.

Photo: Johanna MacDonald (CC BY-NC 2.0)


  1. I guess one way to do it is to stay under the radar so nobody is judging you to that degree……….:).
    I haven’t put myself out there like that yet; if anything however, I think my time in social has prepared me for the good and bad should I get to the point my writing is being judged. 
    How do you do it; drink heavily?

    • bdorman264 I take out my frustrations by going for a long run or going to boot camp class. Kind of – I’m such a perfectionist that I tend to stew about failings, real or perceived.

  2. Ah, but don’t forget, the worst beatings can come from yourself. Which is ok, it serves to make all the other beatings easier to deal with.

    • barrettrossie Ah, you’re going to find out something else about me. I’m a perfectionist and can be horribly critical of myself. You would think that would make other people’s beatings easier, but I haven’t always found that to be the case. Then again, the type of beating matters, too. Some people beat to beat. Others beat to teach. I welcome the latter and frown upon the former.