Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writing: 10% Inspiration, 90% Perspiration …or… “Work, Work, Work”

Writing, especially writing something that someone will pay to read, is an activity that appears to defy that old adage…until you tackle it in earnest.   The work starts with the first draft.  Just being disciplined enough to sit down and type that first sentence takes effort.   Thus we begin Anne Lamott's (bird by bird) “shitty first draft”.  For the record, I enjoy crafting words into sentences and ideas, but the laws of physics apply to writing, and writers. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an external force.   I can always find six to ten things to do (make coffee, read paper, entertain cat…) before starting to write.  We have to be our own external force, and keep nudging the object at rest, until we’ve completed that first draft.
Then when we finally finish that first draft, the most fun part of the process, we start the seemingly endless rounds of editing.  I’m on the fourth draft of We Can Give Our Grandchildren a Better World, and expect to need two more drafts before spending good money on a professional editor.   Editing is tough because it involves all that mundane grammar and punctuation stuff, plus the craft work of shaping the characters (fiction) or ideas (nonfiction).  This mostly takes perspiration, with a little inspiration to solve the trouble spots.
Finally when we’ve pruned, trimmed, and smoothed until we’re confident we have a marketable product, it’s time to start marketing.  This can be the hardest step of all.  I’m pinch-hitting for Deidre so she can concentrate on marketing. 
If writing is so much hard work, why do it?  Because each of us believes that some day someone somewhere will open our book and be entertained, inspired, or both.  I’ll close with a thought from Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.  The brick walls of life don’t exist to stop us from achieving our goals.  They enable us to appreciate our victories.  They are there to stop those other, less motivated people.  We dedicated people find a way to go over, under, or around them.

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