Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BOOK KILLS MAN! – The Occupational Hazards of Being a Writer

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

 Every profession has dangers. Like coal mining. If you coal mine, there is a good chance you’ll die in the darkness, buried under the earth, gasping for your last breath. Or there’s black lung later on. That death would also involve gasping, I suppose.

Even office jobs have their risks. Carpal Tunnel has crippled some of my good friends—back trouble, ink lung, you know, that kind of thing.

Being a writer also has its occupational hazards. What are they? Well, the list is long, since publishing is a bloody business, but here are nine of them.

1) Crushed by your “To Be Read” Pile: So, writers have to read in their genre.They have to read what’s selling well in other genres; they have to read books written by their friends; they have to read books they’ve promised to review, blurb or pimp. Finally, there are the books writers WANT to read, which may be completely kooky. The amount of reading can become a tower, leaning over your bed, which, if it fell, it would crush you. My Kindle is so full, I’m pretty sure it might explode at any minute. 

2) The Inability To Finish Books: I get about fifty pages in, I study the hook, I look for the conflict, I note how the author made the characters relatable, and then I pick up the next book I should be reading and get about fifty pages in. Thank God for short stories!

3) The Inability To Read Like a Normal Reader: I study the hook, I look for the conflict, blah, blah, blah. I don’t really read for enjoyment. Just studying craft, yo, all the time.4) No Time For Video Games: Dude, I played BioShock before I was published. I got as far as the big plot twist, and then, well, I published my first book. I haven’t been back since.*Sad face*. However, I did pick up the game Limbo on my phone, and Limbo rules! I’m not a total barbarian.

5) No Time For Movies: A movie is a two-hour chunk of time. and when I’m watching, I study the hook, I look for the conflict, et cetera. I do watch movies, but in fifteen minute snippets. See? Not a barbarian.

6) Sleep Deprivation: Too. Many. Books. Not. Enough.Time.

7) Caffeine Poisoning: Careful, my friends, careful.

 8) Death By Resentment/Jealousy: She got published, and I didn’t. He has an agent, and I don’t. He gets to watch movies and play BioShock but I don’t.

9) Dream Gangrene: So, you begin that first book with visions of wonderment and eternity—I will write a book, it will be adored by millions, and people will bring me fruit and kisses. Rose petals will be spread before my feet wherever I go. Like James Earl Jones in Coming to America. It’s a beautiful vision. And then, slowly, slowly, the dream begins to rot either by inaction or by the reality of the endeavor. I have three books published. The dream is dead. I pursued my vision and it didn’t live up to the wonder and I’m a long way from eternity. But…insert motivational statement here…I will continue.

So yes, there are dangers to being a writer and pursuing your dreams. However, in my next PPWC I’ll make a list of all the blessings and joys of writing books because there is eternity in books, whether they hit it huge or not.

Jane Austen wrote lovely novels while she was alive, and it wasn’t until she passed that they hit it big. The world is better because of every book written.Yes, even that one, the one you hate. And the world is better because of writers, even that guy. I know, I don’t like him either.

 Keep on writing, my friends. Write on.Write on. 

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, was called “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart” by Kirkus Reviews. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.

For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey.


  1. My TBR list is like yours, I'm afraid. In addition to a loaded Kindle, I have four bookcases full of hardcovers and paperbacks, four library books on my coffee table, and a list of titles I plan to buy at Colorado Gold so I can get them signed by the authors. The one thing I have mastered, however, is to shut down the internal editor and just read the books for the pure love of reading. I stopped playing games, though. Just uninstalled all of them from both computers. Withdrawal only took a week....

    1. You go, Patricia Stoltey -- get rid of those games. Aaron, this is a hysterical article. I enjoyed every word. The occupational hazards--who knew?

  2. Great post! I knew my TBR pile was out to get me.

  3. No kidding about writing killing the love of reading. I found switching genres really helped. Funny, funny article.


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