And that’s all there is to it. Ellison, I am convinced, was being more than a little tongue in cheek with that last comment. Because although there is no midnight magic in writing (which is not the same as there being no magic, but let’s leave that for another day shall we?), writing is damned hard work.
I know my family, in particular The Man of The House (TMoTH), think I have the world’s best job. After all, what do I do all day apart from sit in front of my computer, drinking countless cups of tea and coffee, tweeting and putting words here and there on pages. Obviously, this is the cushiest number in the world folks.
HA! I wish.
First of all – my job doesn’t have a regular pay check…yet. I work but I don’t get paid until I do enough job of it that someone feels the urge to pay for it. Whereas in my old working life, even on a bad day I took home pay.
Nor is writing physical work. Rarely does my pulse start pounding a tango (unless I’m writing a particularly exciting scene – and since exciting has so many definitions let’s just move on). TMoTH is quite right on that count – I’m never going to burn a thousand calories a day in my job. Consume them maybe, but burn ‘em – nu-uh.
That doesn’t mean I don’t work hard. On a good day two thousand words can pour on to a page in a few hours. Then another couple of hours to make them readable – moving them around, cutting them, pasting them, moving them back to where they started. On a not so good day, lunchtime is there and that cursor is poking its tongue at me going “nyah nyah nyah – told ya it was impossible Ms Smarty Pants.” On a really awful day Internal Editor wakes up and starts ordering me and the story around, isn’t interested in what either of us has to say on the matter and the day ends with me scouring the Situations Vacant for jobs at K-Mart.
Rather than working out the muscles on my body, I work out my imagination and just like a physical workout it can be exhausting. By the end of the day, I really just want to forget about writing and have a nice meal with my family then vegetate while reading a book and listening to Springsteen. Or watch a movie.
I’ve read enough How To Write books and sites to know this is part of being a writer and is unlikely to change. Stephen King might be a best selling, multi-millionaire author – it’s still hard work every day. The only difference (well apart from the obvious ones) between him and me (and you if, like me you are starting out as as writer) is that his surroundings are comfier and he probably has better coffee. It’s still hard work.
Now just for the record, I can see you rolling your eyes while you hunt out that dusty old copy of Money for Nothing (song by a band called Dire Straits for those of you under 20 - give ‘em a whirl – you won’t be disappointed). I can also hear you muttering about me not knowing a real job if it bit me on my rapidly shrinking butt, so I’d just like to clarify that I’m not complaining.
You see the point I’m trying to make – as much to myself as to anyone else – is that, even though writing can be challenging (especially when you are trying to make money from it) I can’t think of a single thing I would rather be doing. It’s the one job I’ve had (and I’ve had a few despite what you may think) that I’ve felt I was doing well. I’m not trying to create great literature, I just want to write a story (or three or four) that someone will enjoy.
And like any job that requires effort, if at the end of the working day you can put down your shovel, scalpel, or pen and feel satisfied with your work – then you’ve done a good job.