Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing is Hard. Isn't it??

Dave Smith: Don't say
I didn't warn you.
I'm going to piggyback off of L.G. Smith's post over at Bards and Prophets today--in brief, because Friday is a sunup to sundown WIP-day for me. Smith sums up the difficulty question with a quote from Ellen Gilchrist, who points out, more eloquently than I can here, that we writers had better not give up our day jobs. And further,  prepare to be disappointed.

My old teacher, poet Dave Smith, (no relation to L.G.) sat me down and gave me similar advice many, many years ago, when I was planning to study for an MA in poetry writing (can you imagine any graduate degree less practical?) He said that even if I did eventually land a university job (after publishing two or three books, minimum), it was a long way off, and a crap shoot. And did I really want to do this?

And this? Easy peasy.
Smith wasn't trying to let me down gently. I was his pet, and I knew it. He was being realistic. I didn't heed his warnings then and I'm not heeding Gilchrist now, either. I mean, I hear what they're saying. But honestly? I don't think writing is that hard.

Writing is fun.
Being a writer makes me zip around some days with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that very much resembles falling madly in love. Writing never bores me. It expands me. It helps me understand people. And nature. And the universe. It makes me fear death a little bit less.

Somehow, I don't think writing is nearly as much of a bummer as, say, being a checker at Walmart. Or spending all day typing other people's letters or doing their laundry. I bet it's a lot less numbing than being a court reporter, and a lot less backbreaking than a career in farming. It's not as debilitating as running a small business or clawing your way up some soul-destroying corporate ladder.

Maybe it's just me? I like being a writer. If we're warning people off careers, let's start with this one: "You sure you want to do this? Because being a call-center operator is really hard."


  1. I'm with you. Yes, there are ups and downs, but I've never regretted quitting my day job. Working on a novel (or two) is better than writing news releases any day. I love being a writer!

  2. I saw your title and thought, wow, we were on the same wavelength today. :)

    For me, writing for publication is hard. It's full of disappointment and heartache. And trying to close that gap between what I write and what I want to write is sometimes very frustrating. But you're right, the actual act of writing is great. I love it. It's why I do it almost every day.

  3. I know, L.G., I'm a bit in denial. I'm pretending that publication is that last thing on my mind. Obviously, it isn't. But these are just the kind of blinders I need to keep working happily.
    @Michelle, heya! Are you on to a new project?

  4. I'm a little weird, I guess. For me, drafting is the hardest part, so writing actually really is super hard. (love to revise, though). But I can see the point about steering people away from full-time writing, at least at first. There are so many writers out there who'd like to do it full time in some capacity, and there are only so many jobs. And some of those areas are so incredibly hard to break into, like writing novels. And poetry--I can't even imagine. So I understand that advice. It's just a matter of knowing what you want to do, being realistic, and having the self-discipline to make it happen.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  5. Ha! And yes, there are a whole lot of jobs that are more soul-destroying than writing. In fact, that's it's major redeeming quality. But I do think that it's hard work, just like a good marriage, where you move past just the heady in-love feeling into building a family/novel together.

    Great post!

  6. Yeah, Becca, I hear you. I thought the first draft of my first novel was a nightmare, because I hadn't outlined anything first. The second one, I'm burning up my word count because I had a good outline. I think I have to face the fact that I am NOT a seat of the pantser. I do love having something to work with, whether it's an outline or a first draft.

  7. @Susan, my 11-year relationship has also been more fun than work--more work at the beginning, more fun later. I wonder if novel writing is like that too--once you've got good solid building blocks, you can quit worrying that your book will fall apart and start enjoying the process? (Here I pause to knock wood).