The Hard Work of Writing

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I’ve been guilty of saying just that to students in my Editing class. And while it’s true that I get to do what I love (and that, in itself, is a blessing), it’s not true that I’ve never worked. Many many days have been “head-down-plod-through-get-it-done-keep-going-don’t-give-up-the-manuscript-is-soon-ending” kind of days.

Editing is hard work.

And so is writing.

So my friend Kameron McBride (a BSU student and Midwest Writers social media intern) writes in his blog and makes the point that, indeed, writing doesn’t just happen like the cobbler going to sleep while the elves make the shoes. It’s sweaty, difficult, and painstaking work. We don’t (ever) wake up to a manuscript magically completed.

An illustration for the Brother's Grimm story "The Elves and the Shoemaker"
An illustration for the Brother’s Grimm story “The Elves and the Shoemaker”

So it’s a good thing we love it!

To be good at writing takes constant practice. Another BSU student and MWW social media intern John Carter discusses the importance of trying to create a schedule to keep him writing regularly over the summer. Then, of course, once “real life” is in place and summer vacation is a thing of the past (at least if you aren’t in academia), then that schedule and routine will be invaluable.

My friend L. Marie has been posting lots of writing process interviews. We writers must juggle life and overcome fear and discouragement. I love her post about this. (And, if you want more, read her whole lineup–especially if you’re into YA.)

Yep, this writing life is hard work–discouraging at times, frustrating, often unrewarded (except when we’re outstanding in our own minds).

And, like any skill, we need to work to improve. Sure, maybe some of us were born with an innate ability to put words together, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to learn or to hone our craft. As Barbara Shoup (director of Indiana Writers Center and, incidentally MWW faculty this year) points out in this blog post, the craft can be learned if you’re patient and willing to work at it.

Work at it.

Here’s what my friend and mentor Cathy Day says about it:

Convincing yourself each day to keep going, this means that you are a writer. The world will be sure to declare, “You matter, but you don’t. Wow, your work is exciting, but yours is old fashioned and dull.” What do you do when someone says, “Eh, you’re okay, I guess.” Do you stop? Or do you keep going? That’s the moment when you know whether or not you’re a writer.

Cathy says, “You must do it simply because you want to.”

Kind of like what Mo Smith (yet another MWW social media intern) describes here.

And it’s hard work.

But therein lies the glory. We want to do it so much that we’re willing to work at it. To stare at the screen on the tough days. To get up early and write when that’s the only time available. To keep on plugging when it fights against us.

That’s the hard part for so many. I hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy (even if I am one), but in a culture where crimes are solved in a TV hour and purchases are made immediately online and we get upset if someone doesn’t answer our text within 60 seconds–well, have we lost what it means to work at something tirelessly?

We each have to answer that for ourselves.

4 thoughts on “The Hard Work of Writing

  1. Linda, I think that’s the interesting part about writing. Good writing seems so effortless. Yet the author went through a great deal of effort to produce that work. And I totally get what you mean about crime shows. We live in such an instant society. We don’t like to wait for emails or phone calls, so we text or Tweet or use the instant message setting on Facebook.

    Writing is easy. Good, succint writing is difficult. So thanks for telling it like it is (and for the shout-out)! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the mention, Linda! And I totally agree–writing is really, really difficult in this day and age. With a culture so steeped in speed and efficiency, having a job that revolves around a lifestyle requiring self-dedicated, near-daily practice is a huge challenge.

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