I have many friends who write, and they either swing from one extreme to the other; from those who feel like they have no control over their characters, and that the characters must “speak” to them to move the story along, to those who are leery about that whole metaphysical metaphor, and feel like you just need to stick with your B.I.C. and get things done. Garrison Keillor’s little screed in Salon yesterday was both amusing and revealing — Mostly because I realized that I’ve never felt comfortable with admitting that writing is easy.
Okay, it’s not so very easy every day; some days there are lawn mowers outside, and there are sinus headaches and small children screaming or cats miaowing and climbing on the keyboard. Some days there are spouses and grandkids and classes and deadlines and time clocks, but on the whole, the words are in there, our lives are a great reference, and it’s not that hard to pluck out the words.
I whine about finding the right word. I whine about lackluster prose and dull dialogue. I whine about revisions. Everyone whines about revisions, especially when one has a contract so close they can smell it, but there are those last four hoops to jump through, and they’re not sure they have any more elasticity in their knees – everyone whines then. Some of us whine because we have to remake the bed every day, it’s just a personality quirk, and we refuse to sleep on the floor. But this job truly is not that hard. As Keillor says, “It does nothing for the reader to know you went through 14 drafts of a book, so why mention it?” We are lucky to have this job. We are not breaking rocks. We are not shoveling. We are not flipping burgers and sucking up grease through our very pores.
We are simply chained to our keyboards.
It’s a Good thing.