You Mean It’s Work?

My least-favorite type of writer is this one, and I’m sorry to be the mean one to say it, but it’s true. There are many of them in the world, and I never stop being frustrated by them. It’s the people who, when they put their work up and you critique it say:

“This isn’t supposed to be work.”

Hold on there, Hemmingway. Take a step back and say that again. This isn’t supposed to be work? So, what? You just think something up, slap it down on the page, and it’s an instant masterpiece? Right. Because Michelangelo just decided to be a painter one day and the Sistine Chapel happened. He didn’t spend his entire life dedicated to his craft or anything, right?

Personally, I think this type of person is worse than that aunt or cousin who thinks you should quit writing and get a real job. At least they have the excuse of not being a writer. They don’t know how much we work our butts off to hone our craft and accomplish our goals.

For some reason writing has this stigma attached to it, like it’s different from the rest of the arts. No one thinks you can learn violin over night and become Lindsay Stirling in a week. And if they do they learn otherwise in the first few notes. The same thing with painting. You can figure out you’re not Rembrandt by sticking a paintbrush in some paint and slapping it onto canvas with the precision of a four-year-old eating spaghetti and know you aren’t a painter pretty quickly. Maybe it’s because words on a page look like words on a page, and if you don’t know what you’re looking at it isn’t as obvious (sometimes) as the fact that your painting looks more like the floor after a frat party than it does your Aunt Gladys.

We’ve all had those friends in our lives who write Godawful poetry and ask us to read it. We are expected to smile and nod because it’s an expression of their twisted, suffering SOUL. It breeds this feeling that you can’t tell someone their writing would be improved by judicious application of gasoline and matches. Believe me, sometimes you need to be told that. You also sometimes need to say it.

Writing is work. It’s long hours of grueling, frustrating, BORING work. If you are trying to make writing your profession you need to pull up your boots and wade in because it will require the same dedication that any job or collegiate-level education will demand. Your long hours in front of your computer pounding away keys are your freshman 101 classes. Then you hit your senior year when you realize you have to make something coherent out of that mess.

I have spent hundreds of hours on the manuscript I’m working on. I wrote it in a furious rush during NaNoWriMo 2013 and have been polishing and ironing out the kinks since then. It takes that long? Yeah. Yeah, it can. You know why? Because it’s work.

I don’t say this to the detriment of folks who write as a hobby. Hobbyists are doing it for fun. They may be exceptionally talented, and may even be good writers, but they are doing it for fun. Professionals are different. Professionals are expected to be… well… professional. We can’t just slap down awfulness and be satisfied with it because that isn’t who we are.

Those who don’t want to put in the time, blood, sweat, and tears to become strong writers aren’t going to cut it as professionals. They’ll be mediocre hacks for the rest of their lives whose time is better served doing something else.

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