Writing a book is hard.
That’s not what I mean.
Writing a good book is hard.
Anyone can hack out a book for entertainment. I’ve done that myself. Had a ball. But to organize a story with impact, to employ skill and language to enthrall someone (not to be confused with fluffy entertainment) is quite a challenge.
I’ve been struggling with the ugly reality – “the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know,” for a few months now. The better I get, the worse I feel. Fancy that.
I’m buried in studies – getting that classical education I was convinced was the foundation I needed to become a better writer. I don’t regret the decision, but it’s hard.
It’s hard to maintain that intense focus month after month, working at a desk when all around, life is beckoning me to sample its delicious flavors. I mean, I don’t have to do this. I’m not training to be a teacher or expecting to become some exalted author. I’m financially secure, and don’t need to prove myself in any way (Heck, I’ve already proven accomplished in an arena or two.) I’m seeking an MFA because I’m compelled to – I feel driven to understand this craft from a more centered place. The only thing I expect to accomplish is to be better, which for some unexplainable reason, is vitally important to me. So, I’m making sacrifices of time, effort and, leisure (as a main course) and stomping my ego (for dessert).
It’s hard to wade through obscure books that challenge my mind and force me to think in a new way (and most of the literature assigned is dark in nature, and that’s not exactly uplifting.) People say, “Wow, you’re only 46 and retired already. With means to enjoy it. How fun! Lucky you!” But I’m working harder now than I have in ages – I guess because I’m in a realm that highlights my inadequacies (I miss feeling accomplished and “good at what I do”). But it isn’t just writing. Reading is no longer entertainment. It’s work. Yet, I’m riveted by all the books I’m exposed to, and I’m developing a different perspective on the world through them. So, I keep at it. Loving every page – even the pages I hate.
It’s hard to start seeing all the odd foibles and personality quirks I tend to put in my work, hard to kill my natural cheesy instincts, even though I understand I must. I’m beginning to think I am more suited to write corny Hollywood fluff than serious literature. Nevertheless, I’m determined to be able to do both.
It’s hard to get it all right, the story arch, the characters, the dialogue, the theme, the language, the voice…. It is all so big, this writing a book. It’s like trying to paint a picture by looking through a keyhole. You can never see the entire thing in one glance, so you keep going over and over it, unsure whether the big picture is in proportion, or some gross rendering of your attempted subject – like a Picasso, when what you were hoping to paint was a Degas.
It’s hard to accept the unending criticism, even when you know it is all commentary you need to hear and you should be grateful for it. And you know a teacher wouldn’t correct you or give you such honest feedback if they didn’t think you had the intellectual capacity to understand it (which is, if you think about it, complimentary – but that doesn’t soothe the sting).
It’s hard to know they’re right every time, because they can see clearly what you’re missing over and over again, no matter how intensely you scrutinize your own work beforehand.
It’s hard to learn that no matter how long I do this, it won’t get any easier. That’s evident when you start reading author interviews. It’s just a fact. This will be hard forever.
Writing a good book is hard. Hell, reading a good book is hard.
And here I am, hard at work trying to do both.
I guess, the way I’m feeling today can be summed up in a few words . What I’m doing now isn’t fun.
It’s hard .
Still – I can’t stop doing it.