No one really likes to write, they like to have written.
Being a writer has to come out of a true passion because sometimes the act of writing is in fact like opening a vein and bleeding onto the page. Or it can be like banging your head against a cinder block wall and then finger painting in the bloody mess. Or it can result in hours upon hours of . . . unusable prose.
The sense of accomplishment comes from the “have written” position where you have a great scene, a great essay, or whatever piece it is that the words were strung together in such a way that it tugs on the heartstrings, evokes the passion, or makes the reader ponder. THAT is when we get the feelgoods.
I’ve shared my list of projects before on my blog. Long lists of in progress, shelved, set aside, partially finished, finished but needs revision, and those ‘I have a vague idea of what to do with this but not definite, so I’ll just file it away’ pieces.
As any writer, I have spent countless hours at my craft. I’ve compared it before to piano lessons that the beginning student doesn’t give a concert performance. You have to practice. I can remember doing scales and arpeggios. Writing exercises such as flash fiction or free writing are akin to practicing those scales and arpeggios. Practicing scales teaches the piano player proper fingering techniques, when to use the pinky and when to cross over another finger. (Simple explanation but it’s a real thing!) Practice writing does the same thing for the writer. If you are using pen and paper, it teaches us to limber up, to flex the writing muscles, and how to hold the pen so our hand doesn’t cramp. If you are using a keyboard, it improves the typing skill and speed. It also loosens the mental cobwebs so the ol’ creative engine can run.
When I first started seriously writing, my typing speed was around 65 words per minute with minimal errors. I have to admit, my error ratio is probably much higher but my typing speed has increased to around 125 words per minute. Thank goodness for spellcheck, that’s all I can say.
Writing is hard work. It’s aggravating when every third person comes up to you and says, ‘I’ve been thinking about writing a novel. If I ever get some free time, I think I’ll do that.’ Let me translate for you. What the writer hears: “OH. You’ve written a book. Yeah, I could do that too if I wasn’t so busy. I don’t have time to just sit on my butt and play on the computer. When I get some free time when I don’t have to work a real job, I might tackle that book I’ve thought about because you know, everyone has a book in them, right?”
Don’t believe me? Ask a writer friend. Or better yet, can I get some feedback from my writer friends? What do you feel when people say that to you?
Let me break it down for you.
“I’ve been thinking about writing a novel” translates= OH, you are getting the spotlight for having completed a novel. I would like the spotlight. I could do that it’s not that hard.
“Yeah I could do that too, if I wasn’t so busy.” Translates= I have a real job that requires 30 to 40 hours of my time every week. A real job where I work and get paid. Writing isn’t a real job, it’s just playing because writing doesn’t take any real effort. [insert plastered on fake smile to cover the smirk from being dissed here because every writer knows just exactly how much work it truly is.] I don’t have time to just play.
I posted slides on social media as the release date drew near for my debut novel. Yes, I was rather proud of myself for achieving a goal that I have worked towards for years. Notice I said my debut novel, I plan to write many more. Immediately two glory hogs popped up to say, they could write a book if they weren’t so busy.
Hello? I work a professional job, manage my household (Ignore that stack of dirty dishes!), have two daughters, do volunteer work through a counseling based course. I don’t sit around and eat bonbons. I don’t have time to play. Like all writers, I make the time for what I am passionate about.
In one sense, it’s really no big deal. But in another, it is infuriating when you get that smug response from the person who is really talking down to you. The southern lady in me wants to say: “well bless your heart.” (Anyone who doesn’t speak southern hospitality it means: well aren’t you a special kind of stupid.) The Missourian in me wants to say: “Show me – either put up or shut up about writing.” The part of me that starts singing the “manumanum” song when they go into their diatribe while plotting a way to utilize them in the next death scene, is amused at their ignorance.
What if writers started responding with “You know, I could have been a nurse but I don’t want to change bed pans. I could have been an accountant, but I couldn’t get the debits and credits to work it out with the secret withdrawals. Debits threatened to expose secrets, so he had to die. It was a formulaic death.”
I don’t think the glory hog that laid out the myriad of reasons why she hadn’t written her own book yet appreciated my response. “Well, if you are serious about wanting to write, you should pursue it. I know this ritual that you can do. All you need is some quilting pins, an effigy doll, a blank journal, and a small animal to sacrifice.” Nope, she was not amused.
Ah well. You never know what’s going to come out of the mind or mouth of a writer.
Write on my friends, write on.