No One Ever Promised Life Would Be Fair

By Lois Winston

I graduated college (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, if you believe my kids) with a degree in graphic design and illustration and went to work as an art director at a small ad agency. Big title. Tiny paycheck. I was the one and only artist on staff, so I really didn’t direct anyone.


One day I was complaining about the unfairness of something to our office manager, and she said, “Lois, no one ever promised life would be fair.”


That conversation took place so long ago that I don’t even remember the names of all my coworkers, but her words have stuck with me. Over the years I’ve had some hard times while others around me have had great success. I have a relative who I’ve often said could step in caca and have it turn into gold. Some people have that kind of luck. Me? Well, let’s just say I’ve never won more than $7 on a lottery ticket. Get the picture?


I’m constantly reminded of that coworker’s words when I look down the long and winding road of my life as a published author. No one ever promised life would be fair. The outside world (those millions and millions of people who know nothing about publishing) thinks every published author is pulling in the kind of big bucks that James Patterson, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling make. Friends and relatives expect you to give them free books because after all, you’re a published author and can afford it. (I can hear the laughter coming from all the published authors reading this blog post.)


The hard truth is that most published authors can’t afford to quit their day jobs. And that includes many authors I know who have hit the NY Times bestseller list. Factoring in the hours most of us devote to crafting each novel, then promoting it, we’d make more money per hour asking, “Do you want fries with that?” 


So why do we do it?


We write because we can’t not write. (Pardon the double-negative.) Yes, it’s hard work, often filled with disappointment: You can’t sell what you consider your break-out book. Your last royalty check was less than three figures. Your publisher drops you. Your foray into indie publishing has resulted in sales that might sustain your Starbucks habit—if you’re lucky. 


And still, we continue to write. Because you we can’t not write.


No one ever said life would be fair–or easy, but the struggle makes us stronger. And better. We keep writing. Keep honing our craft. Maybe someday luck will be on our side, and we’ll reap the rewards of all that hard work. One thing is for certain, though, if we give up, we’ll never succeed.

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USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

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17 replies
  1. Lynn McPherson
    Lynn McPherson says:

    Great post, Lois! You're so right about writing–we can't not do it. It's feels like a compulsion some days. But I still love it 🙂

  2. judyalter
    judyalter says:

    I did a blog about that not long ago because a friend of one of my son's asked, "When will you quit writing?" as though it is something I'll set a retirement date for. It's hard to make non-writers understand. I'll write as long as I'm able, and I suspect there will be a gradual slacking off rather than a sudden, "Today I quit writing." I have an academic colleague who just published a scholarly article and referred to it as his last. I bet he keeps writing.

    • Lois Winston
      Lois Winston says:

      Judy, I'm getting the retirement question a lot lately because we recently moved to a new state, which meant all new doctors, etc. People just don't seem to understand when I say I never plan to retire.

  3. Karen McCullough
    Karen McCullough says:

    You could be speaking for me. Every word is so true of my situation as well. I've even tried to quit writing a couple of times. It never works. The hiatus might last a week or so and then I've got characters banging on the inside of my skull demanding I let them out by writing their stories!

    • Lois Winston
      Lois Winston says:

      Karen, I do know one reluctant amateur sleuth who would be quite happy to have me retire so I'd stop dropping dead bodies at her feet. 😉

  4. Kelly Brakenhoff
    Kelly Brakenhoff says:

    I've gone years without writing fiction, but even then I had stories in my head that needed to come out some other way. Whether it was telling them to my kids when they were younger, or crafting business documents, I've always loved watching my words hit their mark with an audience. Now that I have more time to write what I want to write, I'll probably never fully retire either. Sure would be great to hit the lottery though!

  5. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    Kelly, definitely would be nice to hit the lottery. At least winning that is purely luck and not ruled by the whims of the publishing industry and book buying public.

  6. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Loved this, Lois. But here's what I wonder: In spite of everything, we are we compelled to write. What is it that drives us?

    • Lois Winston
      Lois Winston says:

      Probably the inherent need to create, Gay. I think the same could be said about painters and sculptors and other artists, composers, and anyone else who pursues the creative arts.

    • Janet Alcorn
      Janet Alcorn says:

      Yes, the inherent need to create. For years, I didn't think of myself as a creative person–quite the opposite, even. Then I started writing and found my creative voice. And then I looked back on other hobbies I've had, especially gardening, and I realize I've been driven to create since I was about 5.

  7. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    So agree! Even those of us who don't think we are steadfast eventually keep on plodding. Life may not be fair, but without writing, it would be far less fun.


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