Writing as Work

Like Marie, I tend to spend a lot of time staring at the wall, thinking. Maybe too much time doing that and not enough time at the keyboard. Not Writing, as a habit is a tough one to break once you’ve started. It feels good in a way to be free of all the mental clutter that comes with carrying around the minds and souls of others inside your head. The weight of civilizations removed from your shoulders you can actually enjoy life.

For awhile.

Marie Brennan on why writing and work do not always fall into the same sentence, even if they should:

It’s fun. And if you’re an American, your country was founded by Puritans, who knew very well that anything fun was Not Work (except maybe the Work of the Devil).

But of course we know writing is work. The hours may not be regular, but they’re long. I write about a thousand words in an hour when things are going smoothly, which means it would take me about three standard forty-hour work weeks to write a 120K novel . . . but of course it isn’t all about putting the words on the page, is it? I could not begin to estimate how many hours I spend researching, tweaking, staring at the wall and thinking. Mostly because I’m not just staring at the wall; I’m thinking about my book while I drive. While I shower. While I eat meals. While I try to go to sleep. When I’m into the guts of the thing, I’m rarely not thinking about it. (Let’s not even talk about the hours put into revision, copy-editing, proofing, and all the other tasks of getting the book to the shelves.)

That feeling of complete immersion is what I miss most when I am not writing. It seems that authors are specially designed to carry this burden. Without the load, they tend to feel a bit disconnected, then fidgety, moving on to cynical and bitter, and finally just downright nasty.

This is not to say that there haven’t been times when my non-writing was a pleasant escape, when I returned to the idea of pursuing stories with a fresh eye and a heart filled with joy. That happens too, but more often than not it is darkness that gathers in the pages of my journal when they go unused.

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