Sydney Avey

Dynamic Woman — Changing Times

The Writing Roller Coaster

Oct 15, 2015 | Learning curve, Writing life | 2 comments

The Great Wheel, Seattle

The Great Wheel, Seattle

My friend Von sent me a copy of the Afterword to Terri Blackstock‘s book Double Minds that describes the roller coaster writing life. The timing was good. I was down about last week’s social media and sales reports. Low engagement on Facebook. No sales on Amazon. Yesterday I experienced mild elation when I learned I’d been accepted into the Christian Authors Network, but that dissipated quickly when I crested the peak of saw the quick drop into marketing tasks ahead. Euphoria is reserved for the high points; coveted awards, lucrative book contracts; five star reviews that breed like fleas in tall grass.

More than the ups and downs of the writers life, a roller coaster describes the quality of the experience. Once you strap yourself in for the ride, it’s a long, uphill, chest-tightening ascent. Your former life drops away. At some point the pace picks up and you are whizzing around the learning curve. More climb. More curve. Then, you reach a heart-stopping peak, the thrilling moment when you know your mettle is about to be tested. You open your eyes, throw your hands in the air, and scream your way to the finish. (Or you close your eyes, bury your face in your hands, and fixate on whether your guts have actually relocated elsewhere during the free fall.)

Roller Coasters vs Ferris Wheels 

Terri says she loves the roller coaster. I say, it takes all kinds. There are other rides in the carnival. I like the Ferris wheel. It has its ups and downs. What it lacks in thrill sensation, it makes up for in awe-inspiring views. It’s a ride better suited to literary fiction–a slow build, time to savor the setting, the sensation of having left the earth for another world.

A roller coaster is a marvel of engineering. Lines are long for a short ride. Riders no sooner get off than they want to get back in line to ride again. Compare that to a genre writers life. To generate income you must replicate a thrill a minute, plus keep a complex structure functioning.

On the other hand, a Ferris wheel can be iconic, strategically placed to draw the eye to a beautiful landscape (the Great Wheel in Seattle), provide an unobstructed view of the bustle below (the London Eye), or preserve history (the classic tribute to an era at Navy Pier, Chicago). How does this work as a metaphor for the writers life? It’s a challenge to write something unique for a smaller audience.

As a writer of literary fiction, I don’t think you come up to speed as fast, or produce as much, or profit as greatly (if at all). The emotional ups and downs are probably less agony and ecstasy and more a continuum between discouragement and hope.

Either way, it’s somehow worth the trip to the carnival or we wouldn’t do it.

If you compare your life to a carnival ride, which attraction suits you best?


  1. Mary

    My choice has always been the parachute ride…you’re taken up slowly, and the view is 200 feet up, and breathtaking, an
    exhilarating floating moment, and then you’re dropped suddenly to ground level…coming back to earth, so to speak, encapsulating a writer’s life.

    • yosemitesyd

      An apt description, Mary. Writing is a high that requires much ground work!


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