The life of a writer sounds pretty cushy. Get up when you want, stare thoughtfully into the distance, and then swiftly write profound words that tough the heart and move the soul.
There’s an old adage that says there are two things you never want to watch being made – sausage and legislation. Both processes are long, dull, messy, and filled with compromises. I’d add writing to that list as well. There’s very little pretty about it.
Writing is work
That’s hardly an original revelation. It’s been said and written by authors for decades. But there is this persistent belief that writing is easy and a writer’s life a vacation.
Even just writing a post like this has its challenges. Unseen by you, there was a fifteen minute pause between the words “vacation” and “Even”. I questioned the topic (it’s been done before, what do I have to offer that’s new?), there was distraction (where I’m writing suddenly got noisy and I wondered what was going on, then I thought of a different project I’m working on). Now I’m semi-committed to writing this again. (Or am I? Just started staring off into space again).
I guess what I really want to say is not “pity us, we who slave away the anvils of words. See our suffering!” as much as I want the average reader to appreciate, if only for a moment, the hard work that has gone into the words you read.
It’s the work of translating the ideas, images, and voices of the story in your head to paper or screen. Then the long and sometimes painful process of editing. Hating what you wrote, polishing, repairing, “killing your darlings”, throwing entire plotlines, characters, and chapters out and starting again. Frustration, elation, anger and disappointment. Ending a day positive you wrote garbage and waking up to discover that some of it is not bad. Ending a day sure that you’ve nailed it, only to discover that it’s all, every last word of it, irretrievable sewage. Deciding to declare it finished even when you’re sure it could be better. But you have to stop. Waiting to hear what your beta readers think, what your editor thinks, what the public thinks.
All as you begin something new or return to something old.
To begin it all again.