Being Writerly (You’re Doing It)

Dreams of our Future Happy Selves are funny things. I’ve discovered how we can be blinded by the dream, and not recognize it when it’s right in front of us. That’s because it doesn’t usually look like the image held in our minds, where it is we make up what it must be like to have “that life.”



artwork by Michael V Malano


Last year I was in the middle of a writing life grumble (an unhappy place, but not as intense as a full on depression*). I had made progress, but I certainly wasn’t having the glamorous writing life I’d imagined.

On a whim, I sat down and made a list of what I did with my time. And what do you know… it consisted of reading, writing, story editing, blogging, attending writing group, attending conferences, contacting schools, marketing myself, social networking, sending out proposals for conferences and grants, conversing with writers on list-serves… in other words, I WAS DOING IT!

Holy cow. I was living a writer’s life… really? But, but, but… what about the Dream?

I have been surrounded by writers of all kinds (from experimental performance poets to picture book authors) for the past 20 years. And granted, a few of them are rock stars who have major awards and sales and movie deals and live in two countries and have fans all over the world. But the truth (and the secret) is that the majority of them struggle to organize their time and pay the mortgage (or rent).

The majority of them send out proposals and grants and queries (and get rejections for proposals and grants and queries). They find creative ways of making money (or soul-sucking ways of making money that leave them close to suicidal). Life is never exactly where they want it to be, they lose hours of writing time to other things, they get down and sometimes have to drag themselves to their desks…

There are high highs and low lows. A call from an agent sends them through the roof. They’re on cloud nine. Three days later they’re swimming in rejections or bad reviews or a mess of grant paperwork.

In one day recently I went from a fantastic visit with 120 elementary school students to a rejection letter and a technical glitch that ate up hours of my time. I’ve driven books to schools, sent hordes of individual emails to potential reviewers, set up booths for festival events, and rewritten one of my query letters sixteen times – and none of it felt glamorous at the time, because really, it’s not.

And that’s what I’m telling you. The writing life (or whatever other creative life you have in mind) is not really all that glamorous.

But, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fulfilling, engaging, enriching, joyful, and extremely rewarding.

Several years ago, after “coming close” (yet again) to some screenplay funding, but not getting it, I told a friend of mine I was going to throw in the towel. That’s it. I’m finished being a writer.

She laughed and said to me, “Oh yeah? What else are you gonna do?”

“Good point,” I responded. I really didn’t want to do anything else. So I decided to embrace it instead.

These days I like to remind myself as much as possible that THIS IS WHAT WRITERS DO! I’M DOING IT!

And this serves, more often than not, to make me grateful and joyful and much more satisfied with where I am instead of pining over some future happiness. And now when I’m at my computer spinning tales, I’m fully immersed in my experience, because I decided my purpose is to enjoy my creative life whatever that looks like.

Do I want to be a rock star writer? Of course. But, in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy myself in the here and now.


For the next 7 days: every time you start to disparage about how you are not making it as a writer (or artist or singer or whatever), tell yourself, “I love my writing/singing/acting life! Here I am doing my writerly/singerly/actorly things.”

If you want to get really fun with this idea, apply this thought to EVERYTHING you do. While you’re riding your bike think, “Here I am, the writer riding her bike to the store.” or “I love being a writer shopping for groceries.”

Seriously. Because all those writers, actors, singers, etc you admire happen to also shop for groceries, get their cars fixed, and take their pets to the vet.

Yes, it might seem silly to think these thoughts at first, but I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.


*If you are past the point of grumble and are in full on depression, here is a brilliant and realistic blog post author Libba Bray wrote about depression


  1. Cindy Heinrichs
    Apr 28, 2014

    Danika, thank you so much for this post. It is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. Going now to do my assignment. 🙂

    • Danika
      Apr 28, 2014

      Well, it was exactly what I needed to write. If I focus too much on this Ideal Glamorous Writing Life, then I don’t appreciate the actual being of a writer. I want to enjoy the miracle of it. How all the stories and characters appear from the ethers to entertain me. That’s a gift.

      • Cindy Heinrichs
        Apr 28, 2014

        It is a gift. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Derald Breneman
    Apr 28, 2014

    I know a number of people still working their careers or even running their own small companies who are really concerned about what they’ll do with themselves when they retire. As you know, I have not reached rock star status with my writing. Yet. But I’m continually grateful I will have something to look forward to every day, even when I’ve reached the doddering stage: writing and getting better at it and creating something I can’t yet imagine.

    • Danika
      Apr 28, 2014

      Lovely! I think it’s one of the advantages of being a writer… you will always be able to challenge yourself, you’ll get better with each sitting, and you’ve got more experiences to pull from. And you are definitely a writer, Derald. You are one of the most diligent ones I know. You do what it takes to improve your work.

  3. typestar
    Apr 28, 2014

    A lovely reminder. That’s why I always drink champagne and wear a black tie while writing, to keep things glamorous. 🙂 Great post.

    • Danika
      Apr 28, 2014

      I’m lucky if I put on pants… wait, you didn’t say anything about pants, just a black tie.

  4. maisymak
    Apr 28, 2014

    I just read your post at 4a.m. writer – it was so good. Simple yet profound. Why wouldn’t the “the purpose-driven life” apply to writers? And yet, I never thought about it the way you were able to write it – thank you!

    • Danika
      Apr 28, 2014

      Why thanks for coming over here to let me know. That means a lot. I’ve met a lot of purpose-driven creative people. It’s a good place to be.

  5. maisymak
    Apr 28, 2014

    Also – your books look wonderful!

  6. landofdeborah
    Apr 29, 2014

    This is such a great post Danika and so true! Many times I wonder where my life as a musician went and then it hits me… “I’m doing it!”. Then I go into deep gratitude and everything seems shiny and makes sense. Your post is a great reminder. Thank you xo

    • Danika
      Apr 30, 2014

      I thought of you when I was writing it, because I think we’ve had this conversation before. We ARE doing it. Our lives our filled with our art and we are surrounded by artistic comrades. And every little win a fellow writer/artist/musician has I celebrate with them, because we have to celebrate the wins and not get bogged down with what we don’t have, or that it doesn’t look like we think it should

  7. Phoenix
    May 9, 2014

    This is such an excellent blog, Danika. I sooo relate to what you are saying about a writer’s life. It’s a love-hate relationship with my reality. But I did it — and I’m doing it — and right now I’m in the love part. I created my own reality! Maybe I’ll start drinking champagne like typestar! No ties, though. Scarves! I own more than fifty of them! 😉 <3

  8. Yvette
    May 10, 2014

    Dear b

    Dear Danika,
    Have I told you lately how much I LOVE YOU!!!!! That’s an awesome blog post, by my awesome and talented friend… that’s you! I am so proud of all you are doing! You inspire me! I am an ACTOR answering my awesome WRITER friend about her amazing blog! Next I will be an ACTOR, reading A Winter’s Tale and looking for a monologue to prepare – oh yah!!! I’M LIVING MY DREAM TOO!!!!!! LOVE IT and LOVE YOU!!!!! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • Danika Dinsmore
      May 12, 2014

      Haha! That made me smile. I love following our dreams together, my awesome actor friend!

  9. Uneide Art
    May 26, 2014

    Thank you for this post. I think that all of us have those highs and lows, and it can be so easy to forget the things you HAVE done and ARE doing. I love the idea of a ‘list’ of sorts – the ways that we are living our dreams. I’m starting mine now! 🙂

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