They took me to a dog show and I won

(In the interests of not leaving a negative note on top of the pile (see previous post) here's the second one of the day.)

So ….

A blog post I read this weekend (see here) told an anecdote about a brain surgeon musing to a novelist that the surgeon always wanted to take time off to get a novel written.  The novelist responds with the comment that they wanted to take a vacation from writing to try brain surgery.

This really stuck with me, because it is largely true.  Many people who have never written anything assume it *is* very easy to do so – i.e., something you do on a holiday from regular old hard work.  Maybe it is because many people in the west use some form of written communication (office memos, e-mail, texts, tweets) and they have to write to do so – even if they do so poorly.  So they figure, "How hard can it be?  I can do that."  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Writing is work.  I am going to misquote this, but here goes anyway:  "There are only twenty-six letters of the alphabet.  When you are there staring at a blank page and you have to create a story that is gripping and succinct, armed with nothing but a couple dozen odd symbols and sounds, you have to apply every ounce of brain power you have to it."

So very true.  Writing does take judicious applications of brainpower, willpower, and sacrifice (the other, easier things to do in one's time), just like any other job.  You can't sit around and wait for the words to come to you; sometimes, you just have to buckle down and force yourself.  A hobby isn't supposed to be like that, I know … but if you want to be a true success, I genuinely feel (unless you are some bimbo celebrity or philandering sports figure, with a built-in market) that you have to apply some effort.  Very few people stumble into it.  And I'm just discussing getting words on paper.  I haven't even mentioned the other things a commercially successful writer must do:  formatting, submitting, marketing, promoting.  Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy writing fiction very much.  It's as much a process of creation as any form of art.  But it's certainly not easy.  Then again, nothing worth having ever is.

I know, some folks "get" it.  Mrs. Axe, who has watched me toil, sometimes in agony, to get pen on paper.  A friend, who is well-read and has tried his hand at serious writing, acknowledges that it's difficult.  Beyond that, it's tough to talk to people about it.  They give you that look like, "Ah, you could be doing something hard and productive but you're writing?  Pffft, how hard is that?  I can write."  It only gets worse when I say I write fantasy.  (Sci-fi or horror elicits slightly less bemusement.)  This doesn't stop me from talking about it, especially when asked.  But I now do it without expecting any positive reaction.  If I said I was an artist, they'd want to see my work.  A writer?  Not so much.

Talk to the (aspiring) authors you know about this.  I bet most of them nod their heads.  They've been there.  So go ahead, brain surgeon.  Take some time off.  Maybe you'll come away with a new appreciation for the time involved in the craft.  More than likely, you'll get frustrated and throw down your metaphorical pen.  I encourage people to do this all the time.  I've had few takers.  Maybe they know they're talking out of their ass.

Maybe I will jot down some of my coping mechanisms / motivations and make a post about that ….


One thought on “They took me to a dog show and I won

  1. On the other hand, inexpert application of fiction writing is less likely to kill somebody. (And if it does, I think that means you win.)

    But yes, I do often dread small talk for this reason. It rarely goes well when writing comes up in conversation, especially when people find out I went to school for it. Unfortunately I don’t really have anything else going on, and I’m not quick enough on my feet to lie about what I do with my life, so it becomes one of those inexorable mine cart track to doom type things. Mostly I hide behind the trash can and put on my mean face and hope nobody tries to talk to me.

    I’m actually in a volunteer group now where people are genuinely interested in the fact that I’m a writer and ask solid questions about the industry and the creative process and “oh hey, have you submitted that novel yet?” It’s weird. I don’t know what to do with myself.


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