Home > writing > Oh, get over yourself

Oh, get over yourself

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

One of the things I most detest is that tendency of writers to pretend that their work involves special difficulties. Oh, the difficulty of writing. One sweats blood, opens veins, and generally has a tough time of it. And one takes risks, risks beside which such occupations as, say, logging or commercial fishing or clearing unmarked minefields look safe.

The truth is that if you write the kind of novel that people call “daring” or “bold,” as I recently discovered I had, you still risk little more than a few paper cuts and (he admits ruefully) a bruised ego. My God, the risks we take!

This brings me to The Afterword, where Rebecca Eckler informs us that the life of a writer is “painful, emotionally exhausting, frustrating, and, well, basically hard work.” Furthermore, she says, “when your book is finally published, you feel like you’ve carried triplets for nine months.”

Certain biological realities, the least of which are the difficulty of actually conceiving triplets and the rarity of a full-term multiple pregancy, dictate that I’ll never know first-hand what it’s like to carry triplets for nine months. But I’ve watched a woman carry twins for eight months, and I’ve written a novel, and from this experience I conclude that one task is far more difficult and painful than the other. And it ain’t the novel writing.

The reality is that if your novel takes seven years to write, then by the time you finish it, you’ll feel like you sat down at your desk and worked for seven years at a job no more painful, emotionally exhausting, or frustrating than investigating software defects or studying the reproductive strategies of Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum. I think I can safely wager that seven years of dealing with the problems of real people in social work is twenty times more painful, frustrating and emotionally exhausting than seven years of imagining the problems of imaginary people and writing them down.

There is no magic to this. You sit down and you write, day after day, until the thing is done. That’s all.

Categories: writing
  1. January 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    The act of writing might be easy, as you said, you sit down and write. Some people, however, tend to think that the problems preventing themselves from writing are part of act of writing itself.

    Therefore, I think that it depends on how you conceive the act of writing.

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