I’ve only read one Amy Tan book: The Bonesetter’s Daughter: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) (Affiliate link). The novel’s protagonist is a ghost writer, and Tan uses the character to point out some of the pitfalls of being a writer when it comes to the way others sometimes view the profession:
- People thinking you have time to pick up their dry cleaning.
- People thinking you have time for lunches that last all afternoon.
- People thinking you have time to play tennis, shop, or hang out.
Many people think writing’s this easy thing that just happens when the Muse decides it’s time. Nevermind the years of skill it takes to get good–people say things like “I want to write a novel someday…” as though writing a novel is something done on a whim that everybody can do.
Imagine the response if people said, “I want to do a triple bypass on somebody’s heart someday…” or “I’ve thought about creating blueprints for a skyscraper someday…”
I’ve heard people talk about how “lucky” full time writers are, as though making it isn’t a matter of drive and talent, but rather, some literary lottery where one day you’re toiling away on a loading dock or in a cubicle, and the next you’re invited at random into a literary society where you meet in the evenings to sip sherry, discuss writers of yesteryear, and do all kinds of “lucky writer things” things until you’re inspired to write.
Writing’s hard work.
I don’t mind hard work. In fact, I love that writing a novel isn’t easy.
Writing doesn’t physically exhaust me like some jobs I’ve had, but it takes something out of me in ways no other task ever has.
Most people who read The Juggling Writer have day jobs and write when they can. Most of you know that writing isn’t easy. Easy is sitting down in front of the television after a day’s work to relax.
In its own way, writing really can be a bit like donning a hard hat, climbing on top of a big chunk of concrete you worked hard to pour, and then attacking that chunk with a hand drill to make it something more.
This week, I hope everybody works hard, and has a lot of fun building something cool!