Wednesday, August 24, 2011

16390--Flies Gotta Fly, Bees Gotta Be and Writers Gotta Write

My grandfather used to say, "The jobs that come looking for you are better than the ones you have to go find."  I suppose that means writers are among the blessed because it is certainly something which seeks us more than it is sought.  There are those who could also make an arguement that writers are among the cursed or afflicted because writing well is hard work.

Even when words come easily, if we're doing what we do properly, we're particular about the choice of each one.  We have time for reflection about those choices.  We can take the time to struggle with placement of sentences, whether to use one or two, and how everything needs to be punctuated. Then, of course, there's the issues of paragraphs and transitions.  Next thing you know, you've been using your brain for hours.  Don't let anyone tell you differently: that's work.  To compound the issue, your brain uses the lion's share of your caloric intake.  The rest of your body is just a complicated system for keeping it fed and alive.

Part of the problem, for writers, is that the definition of "good writing" not only varies depending on the target media (short stories, editorials, blogs, poems, movies, comics, etc.), but also with the opinions of each audience member.  Back in junior high school, I was told my fiction writing was very good.  In high school, no matter how much my fiction was enjoyed, our English teachers stressed that our essays had to be longer and more dense.  Those of us who wanted the best grades wrote more.  In college, though, that rule changed and the emphasis became to write less.  One of my first essays for the appropriately named Dr. Dyer (dire) was mercilessly bloodied by his red pen.  Entire paragraphs were cut and in one margin he left a madman's scrawl that asked, "Don't you ever edit?"  Well, that wasn't really something I'd been taught, but he went to work on that.  He had all the finesse of a brick going through plate glass: not charming, but effective.

Another of my college's English teachers returned a paper with an assessment and a warning.  "I see you've got some real flair and creativity in your writing.  We're going to crush that right out of you."  Wow.  Yeah, I took that as a warning and I took it to heart.  The self-defense part of my brain decided it would be best to engage in a different course of study where the creative bits of my scribblings would be encouraged.

I found my way there, but the thing is: writing is work.  No matter how long you do it, it's still work.  Part of the tricky thing is, there's more to it than just writing.  There's also editing and recruiting others to help you do those things.  If you're planning to cultivate a broad audience, there's marketing involved and that's something the writer needs to take an active part in because no one else knows as much about whatever's been written as the writer.

So, write write and write some more, proofread, edit, rewrite, recheck that research, rewrite some more...Practice may make you better, but it doesn't make the task easier.  The hundreth hole you dig takes just as much digging as the first and writing is always writing and laden with all manner of extra bits. 

It seems simple at first glance, but it's bigger on the inside.  That's something most of us don't find out till we're deep in it, but that's just something we have to deal with.  We're writers, after all.  It's not like we were going to be doing something else, anyway.


  1. Very true, Phoenix. Like you (I think), I've been writing most of my life, and it always seemed simple. Just... string the words along, tell the story. During all my schooling my writing was praised right and left; I think my teachers weren't as conscientious as yours, hahahaha. I even published some short stories in a litmag in my hometown in my early twenties. But... There's more than meets the eye. Now that, after a bout of income-oriented hiatus, I've decided to take writing seriously, I find I've become much more discerning. And yes, the hole-digging analogy is absolutely perfect. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Thanks for reading and appreciating this. I'm always glad to share. I still feel great stringing those words together whether they flow like breathing or require the complex thought that goes into a plot structure that blows your socks off. As I've taken the plunge to really give my writing every chance to thrive, I've gone back through all the fiction I've ever written or made notes about, including those small press publishings that were such fun to churn out.

    Orson Scott Card told me, "If you write, you're a writer." That was because I introduced myself to him as one rather than saying "I want to be a writer" and that impressed him. I hadn't sold anything yet, but I was writing and that was what mattered. I considered the first real testament to my credibility to be my first rejection letter. Now I think the real test is just being willing to show your work to the world to read and it has now become easier than ever to literally do that. that.

  3. Writing is work. True.
    Building stories word by word, molding those sentences, stirring emotions with squiggles on a light background, stretching a meaning until it snaps. Writing.
    Louise Sorensen
    louise3anne twitter