Author Jeff Strand’s THE WRITING LIFE: REFLECTIONS, RECOLLECTIONS, AND A LOT OF CURSING is one of the best books I’ve read about what it’s like to be a writer.
First, what the book isn’t: It isn’t a guide to how to be a better writer. It minimally touches on craft. And the writer you’ll find in its pages has nothing to do with the mad, addicted, witty writer genius so often depicted on the screen. What it does do is perfectly capture with brutal honesty the hardship, triumph, compulsions, and periodic lunacy of being a writer in the real world.
I haven’t read much of Strand’s fiction, only having read DRACULAS, a work he co-authored with some other writers like JA Konrath and which I enjoyed as a light, fun horror story. I had a chance to enjoy his emceeing of the Stoker Awards one year, however, and thought he was hilarious. THE WRITING LIFE has a similar comedic tone, which Strand uses to poke fun at himself and his profession.
Everything is on the table, the good, the bad, and quite a bit of the weird and ugly. The neediness and desperation, the belief next year will be the perfect year, the reality that success is usually a matter of numerous baby steps instead of finding the right switch, the idea of writing as a very long game, the difficulties and egos of collaboration and getting feedback, how to work with editors and agents, the social awkwardness of conventions, empty book signings, how one small success can lead to another, what it was like to be looked down on at the forefront of the eBook wave, and plenty more.
Strand holds nothing back from his description of his writing journey. As a writer, I found it both amusing and relatable to the point of cringing. We try so hard to look cool, and Strand said, “Screw that. Here’s me.” Recommended reading for writers who would find some comfort in knowing, “It’s not just you.”