I don’t often blog about writing, but in the past few months I’ve been thinking about what and why I write.

Whilst these experiences are mine, I suspect that published or not, other writers will recognize bits of themselves in me.

And if you’re a reader, I hope this post gives you some “inside insight” into the author world.

As a writer, I can’t help myself…

From eavesdropping on conversations when I’m out in public. To the chagrin of my long-suffering family, I’ve picked up many story nuggets this way.

I can’t help myself from hearing voices in my head as characters demand I tell their story. And I accept it’s a writer’s definition of “normal” and am mindful not to mention it when I see my doctor for an annual check-up.

I also can’t help myself from drifting off into my own little world. When I worked full-time in an office, I enlivened many dull meetings by multi-tasking—paying attention to the discussion with one part of my brain whilst escaping to an imaginary realm with the other.

I regularly reshaped colleagues into flirtatious debutantes or Regency rakes, a demure governess with a scandalous past, rugged cowboys, or versions of Jane Austen’s bumbling Mr. Collins.  

As a writer, I’m vulnerable in a way that only those in other creative professions understand.

When I send my writing out into the world—whether it’s in the comfort of a supportive writing group, on the bigger stage of agent and publisher submissions, or ultimately, a published novel—I’m opening myself up to someone not liking my “book baby” and saying so, in often painful, public detail.

Logically, I know I don’t enjoy every book I read so it’s unlikely mine will be met with universal acclaim. However, logic disappears when I receive negative reviews or yet another stinging manuscript rejection. 

I drown my sorrows in ice cream, learn what I can from the feedback and move on because rejections don’t stop post-publication.  

As a writer, I can’t stop writing.

Rejections, bad reviews, or when life hits me with the force of a semi-trailer truck—there are times when it’s too painful to write and expose pieces of my heart on the page. 

However, I always come back to it eventually, more determined than ever to tell those stories I can’t get out of my head.

And sometimes, life hurts so much that I have to write. Then, in the midst of all-consuming emotional turmoil, my fictional world is the only place I can find a small, temporary measure of solace.

As a writer, I’m prey to a peculiar set of anxieties.

Beyond the obvious…will this book ever sell and, if it does, what if everyone hates it and, by extension me…I also experience a suite of other insidious concerns.

If I include sex in my books, will people who know me assume those scenes are based on personal experience? Mine aren’t, but when Tech Guy’s work colleagues discovered he was married to a romance writer, he got teased about “Fifty Shades of Tech Guy.”

I also obsess about margin width, font choice, adverb use, and comma placement to an inordinate degree, along with the worry that if anyone in “authority” ever checked my Internet search history, I’d likely be hauled in for uncomfortable questioning.

As a writer, happiness is finding my tribe(s).

I’m blessed to have a supportive husband and daughter (although when I’m on deadline, they know to not interrupt me unless blood, broken bones, fire or flood are involved), but it’s only other writers who truly “get” the writing life.

My writing BFF’s talk me off the edge when my career seems to have more “downs” than “ups,” and they don’t give up on me, even when I’m tempted to give up on myself.

As a writer, though, happiness is also finding my readers—the ones who truly “get” my writing.

They’re the people who email to tell me they’ve “loved [my] books” and ask me about the characters as if they’re real.

They’re also the people who buy my books when they can, request them at their libraries, write encouraging reviews, chat with me on social media and, over time, become friends.

Although (and like all jobs) the writing life can sometimes be hard and frustrating, it’s still the best job in the world and one I’m blessed to be able to do.

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  1. Jennifer Wilck

    As expected, I can totally relate! I think, personally, my insecurities get stronger the more isolated I get–this is a very lonely profession with lots of time spent by myself. I have to remind myself to get out into the world and be with people, especially other writers, so that they can help me keep some of those fears at bay.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Jennifer. I wondered if you’d be one of the people with whom this post resonated. I also appreciate the reminder about how important it is to get out in the world. After an especially long winter, I need to do that more!

  2. Delsora Lowe

    Jen, you are right on (as is Jennifer in above post). In one short blog, I laughed and cried – I could so relate to what you had to say. That is the great thing about the romance writer community – we all share. Not only our trials, but our successes and freely give of ourselves in advice and comfort. And getting just one excited reader is enough to shoot me over the moon. Despite the hardships of being a lonely writer – it is the best profession!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m so pleased that this post touched you, Delsora. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. And yes, one of the (many) wonderful things about the romance writer community is that sharing and mutual support. Ditto re: an excited reader! That feedback is the best!

  3. Heidi Vanstone

    “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJV)

    No matter one’s chosen profession, there will always be valleys and desert-droughts. The challenge is to remember that we can only truly appreciate the breath-taking view from the mountain summit because we’ve already experienced the depth-filled valleys. Courage, ma fille!

    • Jen Gilroy

      What an appropriate Biblical reference, Heidi. Thank you for sharing it with me. And I appreciate the “courage” too. Merci!

  4. Susanna Bavin

    This blog will speak to writers, both the published and the unpublished, and it will also give an insight to readers. Writing can be a very solitary business – sometimes from choice, but sometimes because writers don’t realise the extent of the support that is out there once they start to hook up with other writers. The support of others who truly understand what it is like is a great gift. You are someone who has helped me through some difficult patches, Jen, and I am glad to have this chance to say a public thank you xxx

    • Jen Gilroy

      Ahh…thank you so much, Susanna. You have helped me through some ‘difficult patches’ too and are a blessing in my life and writing. xxx

  5. Miriam McGuirk

    Hi Jen,

    Your brilliantly honest blog post resonated. I admire and applaud you for writing straight from the heart of the foibles, challenges, anxieties, highs and in equal measures the honour of being a writer. It’s what we do and whatever life throws at us we always come back to the page. Thank you for reaching out.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Hi Miriam,

      How lovely to ‘see’ you here on my blog. Thank you for reading the post and taking the time to comment. I’m glad my thoughts resonated with you and I appreciate your kind words.

  6. April

    Love this subject!


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