Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Writing is hard

It is. Really.

Okay, so maybe it's not so hard to peck a few words onto the screen. Subject/predicate - paragraph...

Approach writing as art and the challenge increases exponentially. Am I using a strong enough verb? Do the sentences in this particular paragraph read in a pleasing rhythm? Did I inject enough action beats and attributions to create the perfect pacing? Are my characters believable? Did I remain consistent with point-of-view within scenes? Trust me, when you start diving deep into the mechanics of excellent writing, the information is overwhelming. Daunting, even. But still, it's doable. Hundreds of writing books line the shelves at Barnes & Noble and the public library. Grammar for Dummies, anyone?

Getting published is a whole 'nother planet. I feel like I'm taking my well-honed pieces, rolling them into arrow shafts, loading them into a bow, seeking the darkest cave, firing at a target I can't see. Actually, I don't even know if the target is in the cave! Cave by cave I trudge, firing my arrows. Sometimes I hear the CLACK of arrow on rock, sometimes... nothing. The arrow is gone, never to be heard from again. Other times, up to half a year later, someone finds my arrow lying on the cave floor. They pick it up. Unroll it. Read it, then send me a form letter written by the publication's first editor from 1920. "We're sorry, but your article doesn't fit our publication needs at this time."

It's discouraging.

I guess that's why authors whose arrows finally hit the target tell the rest of us that stick-to-it-ivness is the true talent required for hunting down and hitting the elusive publishing target.

Way Back When, I used to have a romantic view of writing. Writing has been my secret desire since I was able to create stories. I imagined someone bundled up in a cozy sweater along some secluded glassy-surfaced pond in Maine that reflected the vibrant purple hues of spring lupines. Oh, with a GIANT mug of coffee by his or her side. Only the sounds of song birds and the wind in the trees wafted through the cozy cabin. Inspired words zip and zap from keyboard to screen. During lunch, while eating a pb and honey sandwich, the author is visited by a droopy-nosed moose: a muse in disguise. The Next Brilliant Idea has arrived!

Several long weeks pass, and contented author leans back against his Herman Miller chair, presses the "send" button on his e-mail and The Perfect Manuscript is off to the waiting editor wielding a million dollar advance.

Instead, I have to bushwack through a swath of Legoes (which hurt really bad if you step on the barefooted), type with a 1 and a half year old drooling on my arm, while clicking the mouse all over the screen making the sentence I spent six hours on disappear!

After hours of pacing the parquet, I figure out where to take the plot. I sit down and start to type when... HACK! GACK! HHHWWWUUUUHHHHH! A cat barfs on the floor. The baby unlatches his teeth from my arm and is toddling off to play with this gooey new toy. His giggles bounce off the bare walls of my living room turned office. Just as he reaches down to grab the stingy hairball, I leap from my cheap-o (not Herman Miller) chair, trip over Elmo then fall face first in the hairball. At least the little hands have no chance of grabbing the nasty thing.

By the time I clean the carpet with one off the rejection letters from a national magazine; clean myself; give the boy a snack; settle back into my cheap-o chair... I forgot The Next Plot Point.

Great.

Sigh.

I tried to quit.

I wanted to quit.

But I can't.

Something in my compels me to put words to screen - to tell the stories hiding in the creases of my gray matter.

Gotta pick up my bow and arrow and keep hunting. You thing wearing camo and night-vision goggles might help?

1 comment:

Joe said...

I think a roll of paper towels and a voice recorder might work better than the camo and night vision. Something compels you to write, so keep writing.