Writers. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? Sitting at a typewriter, a cup of coffee, hundreds of pages of draft. A wonderful way to make your living, right? People fall in love with the concept of being a professional word craftsman. Your own hours, the money of the best seller resting inside of your head. Ahh, life should be so good.
Wake up! Dream over. It isn’t like that at all. It is hours and hours of work, and some days, only a few pages are going to be used, if that. It isn’t like an artist that after a day of working, you can see the changes, the birthing of what will be a finished product. With writing, and now with computers, there isn’t even the pages to see at the end of the day. Just a blank screen and a saved document.
I formally studied at UCLA. One of the texts we read was written in the 30’s. That was the first issue for complaints. “She is out of date.” “It isn’t like that anymore.” The people complaining really surprised me. Because I found her words remarkably accurate and wise. No, there isn’t an Oliver 9 on my desk, but the act of a work ethic is the same then as now. You either have it or you don’t.
One of the points she made which caused the biggest uproar, was to take 15 minutes a day and write. Every day the same 15 minutes. If at the end of a month, if that isn’t accomplished you probably aren’t going to be a professional writer. People were furious. They were making comments until it turned from constructive to a bitch fest.
The general consensus was that writing is a work of love and inspiration. When a writer becomes inspired, that is when they will work, and magic will fill their pages and the money will come rolling in. How wrong that myth is. It isn’t magic, it isn’t even inspiration as much as dedication, hours of bad writing, rewriting a hundred times, and then the art of acting unfazed at your 20th refusal letter. That is what being a writer is.
I have written for years as a hobbyist with ultimate dreams of making my living at a keyboard. I am now 50 years old, and this is the first year that on my taxes, the word “writer” will be in my occupation spot. I write a t least 6 nights a week, I estimate 60 hours worth a week, and a whole lot of writing in the trash bin because it just wasn’t good.
Talent is helpful, and there are very good writers in this group. But nothing takes the place of a good work ethic, dedication to a craft that can never be perfect, and thick skin to complaints, bad reviews, and polite forms of rejection after rejection. Yet you write on. Because inspiration will never make a good book. Any craft takes hard work and it will improve, this is no different.
Ashton Kutcher accepted an award this last year. That in itself is amazing, but his speech actually captured my attention. He said, and I will close this piece with his quote. “Opportunity looks an awful lot like hard work.” Write on!
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