Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writing is Hard Work

Writing Wednesday

Someone, perhaps one of the agents whose blogs I follow, observed that, "Many people who say they want to write really mean that they want to have written." That is, many people aspire to be writers because they would like to be in the position of receiving the attention paid to someone who has published a book.

Writing is hard work. Rachelle Gardner commented on this a few months ago in a post entitled, "Is Writing Fun?" She said,
"Personally, I don’t enjoy the process of writing, but I do enjoy the results of what I write. However, I know many of my clients, fiction authors especially, love their writing time. For them, that creative flow is energizing. They love being in their made-up worlds and hanging out with their fictional characters and find it an enjoyable “escape” from the hard work of real life."
She went on to explain,
"But if you decide you really want to go for it, then you’ll be ready to accept and deal with the truth: Writing a novel is hard work. You’ll be able to commit to the work, hoping eventually there’ll be a payoff meaning that you’ll enjoy the results of your labor. That doesn’t necessarily mean being published, but simply enjoying your story on the page, and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. In that way, it can still be a labor of love even if it’s hard work.

"Let’s keep in mind that the ultimate “labor of love,” giving birth, is not in the least enjoyable and in fact involves great pain. It’s the result that makes it a labor of love. Sorry, I know you’re a guy and all, but this is a good analogy. In fact, one of the things that defines a “labor of love” is the fact that a task can be extremely difficult and unpleasant, but the results are so “worth it” that you do it anyway. I don’t think “labor of love” means something is supposed to be fun."

There's an important difference between satisfying hard work and a joyless chore. My ongoing discussion about makers--their patience and devotion--is an effort to make this distinction clearer.

Some people say that you write because you have to; that you shouldn't write for a living if you can do anything else. I think those sentiments are shorthand for the fact that writing is hard work--the kind of hard work that not many people find satisfying.

If you find that writing is a joyless chore, that's a good sign that you should do something else.

Image: Simon Howden /

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