We are 19 days into 2012 and I’ve already seen the “writing is so hard that I can barely stand it” whine several times on author loops and twitter. To borrow one of novelist/screenwriter Chuck Wendig’s more colorful tweets from yesterday:
I’m amazed at writers who find zero enjoyment out of the act of writing. Why not just punch yourself in the junk drawer, instead?
First, let me be clear about one point – writing is hard. It’s hard because you start with a blank page and everything that goes on it has to come from inside you. No one else can do it for you and there’s no one else to blame. It’s a combined brain and imagination release and some days it’s downright impossible. It requires long hours without a guaranteed return. It’s a business where so much is out of your hands and working hard doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find success.
But it’s not coal mining.
My maternal grandfather worked in a mine in the coal region of Pennsylvania his whole life. He saw friends and relatives die from accidents and complications from Black Lung. My grandmother worked in a factory, which meant long hours on her feet in not the nicest surroundings. They were teen parents and college was never an option. Their life was hard in the sense of being desperate and tough.
Contrast that with my day yesterday. I sat around in lounge pants on my couch, drinking from a pot of tea while I tried to come up with a plot for a Christmas novella I was just asked to write. The most frustrating part of my day came from nursing a sick dog and the cat’s insistence that he throw up in one of the only two rooms in the house with carpeting. It’s true I wrote a proposal earlier in the week where every word took four hours (or so it felt) to get on the page. Still, I did that while wearing pjs and pink fluffy slippers.
I’m not saying authors shouldn’t complain. I love to complain so I would never deny anyone else. But Chuck’s comment is one I want to keep in my head this year. I write because I want to and am, for now, lucky enough to be able to do as my career. I hate plowing through the middle of a book but love the promise that comes with starting one and the satisfaction that flows through me when it’s done. It’s hard and some days it’s frustrating. The promo stuff, frankly, sucks. The uncertainty of this career can keep me up nights. Really, I could give you a list of the “cons” for a writing career.
Despite all that, I enjoy it. Writing for a living makes me happier than I ever thought possible. It’s not my old job as a custody trial lawyer or my grandfather’s job in a coal mine. It’s a pretty great life and when the little annoyances pile up, and they will, I am determined to remember that I do this job because I love it…and I would be terrible at coal mining.