Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lively discussion last night in my writing class about how "writing is hard!" I consider that when someone says that it means that they are doing it right. (Yes, I am a New England Puritan, why do you ask?)

I think writing is hard, the way marriage is hard., the way parenthood is hard, the way anything worthwhile is hard. Hard in that it throws curve balls at you and asks things of you and pulls things out of you above and beyond what you'd "rationally" give if you were not a thousand percent committed.

It's not rational to rewrite the same ten pages a hundred times, but sometimes you do it. It's not rational to keep sending out a poetry manuscript to dozens of contests a year at twenty-five dollars a pop for entry fees, knowing that your chances are less than one in a hundred, and it may take years to get accepted, and yet you do it. It's not rational to sit on your butt, inside, on a bright sunny day, with the wide bright world whirling around without you, and try to wrestle the lines of a poem into some kind of pleasing order.

And yes, all that is hard, but for whatever strange mix of reasons, some of them lofty, most of them not--you feel compelled to do it. Hard, but not doing it would be harder.

And of course writing is not hard compared to sifting through a garbage dump in Sao Paulo, looking for food or bits of scrap metal, as thousands of people have to do. It's not hard compared to wearing an 80-pound pack and sweating up a hill in Afghanistan, knowing that you could be shot at or blown up at any moment. Not hard compared to...well, you get the idea. It's a privileged complaint, and we all admit it.

The pleasures of reading and writing--when the writing is going well--are incomparable. I spent all day yesterday on the couch with a good book. Skipped my workout, didn't go to the post office to mail my manuscripts, just read and read and read deeply into another person's life. It can be like that. Addictive. then there are the days when it is like trying to shovel through an iceberg using only your mind as a pick-axe. At best you make only a few slushy dents, your mind gets awfully tired and sore, and at the end of the day the glacier is still there, as God intended.


Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

A PRIVILEGED COMPLAINT -- best line ever.

Anonymous said...

yes, writing is hard but reading your stuff is a blessing in disguise. or, should i say a blessing undisguised? thanks.

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