Masochism & the Writer

Any novice writer starting out, soon realises that there’s so much commitment needed to create a story that it’s going to mean self-denial, humiliation and pain. More experienced writers accept that they’ve grown a thick skin to withstand rejection and that tremendous willpower is required to complete the tidying up of a manuscript after The End is typed.

The term ‘masochism’ comes from a writer—Leopold von Sacher-Masoch— whose sexual proclivities included submission to powerful women.

BDSM has become mainstream in recent years, but masochism includes more than painful sexual activity. The Cambridge English Dictionary gives a definition of masochism as:

‘The enjoyment of an activity or situation that most people would find very unpleasant.’

It’s arguable, that to achieve success in any endeavour, an ability to power through pain and denial is essential. Patience and perseverance are needed to get published.


I feel unlike a writer this year, for although I started a novella as therapy while I became a self-publicising blogger and social media poster, I’ve been ploughed under by the repetitive mechanics of promoting myself and my novels.

I started the year by transferring 44 titles from Smashwords and Amazon to a new digital publisher called Draft2Digital.

It took longer than I anticipated, as I had to take my ebooks off Smashwords and Amazon, then reformat the manuscripts to suit D2D’s requirements. It was tedious—the opposite of being creative—I disliked doing it but soldiered on.

In reactivating my Paul Pens blog, which I started in 2014, then neglected ignored in favour of writing, I’m using many of the threads I started on The Colony. Although I’m glad to have them as a resource, editing and updating what I wrote, including checking if hyperlinks still work, has taken me a month of 8-10 hour days. I’ve ended up with 400 posts, which sounds impressive, but I have no idea if anyone will read them or how it will contribute to my author platform. Like anything in writing, what I’ve done is speculative.

I was relieved to complete this nit-picking task, which didn’t feel like much of an achievement—more like I’d finally stopped scourging my back with a cat o’ nine tails!

Once my blog goes live, I’ll begin to tweet, post on Instagram, update the pins I’ve already made on Pinterest, post fresh material on my Facebook business page and offer to do guest posts for other bloggers. I’m going to try to enjoy these activities, and I reckon I will get something positive out of interacting with people who make comments, but I feel more like a business agent than an author. I’m having to force myself to do it—my Cornish Detective novels require publicising if they’re going to sell—it’s a form of advertising. Not only am I a part of show business, but I’m also a manufacturer and self-promoter and performer. Ta dah!

I’m brainwashing myself into staying positive—but not go so over the top, that my blogging and social media activity becomes sadistic—as if I’m inflicting myself on potential readers!

Actually, I’m also concerned that I’m getting off on the masochistic side of writing and publishing…will I forget how to enjoy creating new stories? I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I had no idea how many bricks were involved to build a writing career.

All of us, at some time or other, say to ourselves “Why am I doing this?”

How do you cope with the insecurity and disappointment of writing?

Do friends and family worry about your dedication?

Psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler

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