Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing sucks

There are millions of books out there. More books than I could read in my lifetime. With bookstores and libraries and e-publishing websites, it is easy to find a story that appeals to your taste, and then to simply sit back and let yourself get carried away by someone else's hard work. So why do I sit at this computer – especially after hours spent at my "real" job – making up yet more stories?

Unfortunately (or fortunately if you happen to like erotic romances like Taking Chances or In A Dark Embrace) making up stories is not something I can choose to stop doing. Characters insist on speaking inside my head while scenes flow through my mind like a movie on a screen. There are times when my fingers stumble on the keyboard, just trying to keep up with the inner dialogue. It is a blessed sort of madness. But the result of that first flood of writing is only raw compost for a story – rich with potential but needing so much more before it is ready to face a reader.

Crafting my stories, going over and over each passage and chapter, digging for just the right word, filling in gaps, strengthening characters, twisting subtle threads into the plot and breathing detail and depth into scenes – that is just plain, hard work. And sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it is forced labor. Sometimes hours go by and I hate everything I've done. Although not always. Not even usually. More often I feel deep satisfaction with what I've managed to convey using only one humble little word after another. I am amazed at how whole new individuals and their different, wicked, wild, painful and joyous realities can be contained on pages that I have written. Bringing a finished story forth from the earthy muck of my imagination, fills me with both wonder and pride.

Mind you, no story ever feels 100% finished. At some point, you simply have to stop working on it and send it out the door to face a waiting editor. It's hard to send your new baby out, even once you have the great, good fortune of a direct link to an editor. Far, far , harder is to send your story into one of the many slush piles in which manuscripts routine lose their way. Plastered with rejection letter after rejection letter, your lovely child begins to look like a tattered urchin, desperately seeking a home. At those time, writing doesn't just suck, it damn well hurts. And yet, I and so many others, continue to do it.

Is it because of the rapture we feel when one of our stories does get accepted? The writer's happy dance upon receipt of an acceptance letter is always deeply felt, no matter how frequent or infrequent that result may be. I want to shout "my child is wanted, my child is loved"! It is indeed a wonderful sensation. But, no, by itself that would never make my labors worthwhile. If I needed an acceptance letter in order to write, I would have given up long ago.

I write to keep my own inner fires burning. There is a gratification, a sense of fulfillment and enrichment, that comes from creating any form of art that feeds the soul. And that part of writing – or painting or dance or whatever – exists whether you share your art with the world or not. Of course, there is a drive to have your creation recognized and adored by others. Fear and self-doubt fight with the urge to expose the fruits of our imagination to a (hopefully appreciative) audience. Notwithstanding that inner battle, and the inevitable moments of painful rejection when you choose to take your work out into the world, the act of creation is still worthwhile. Tapping into your creative juices, crafting that raw potential and laboring to bring forth something uniquely yours, has rewards all by itself.

Writing sucks. I highly recommend you try it.

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