Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Isn’t My Life, Or My Muse, Or My Magical Unicorn. It’s My Job.

My writing spirit animal

Over at Operation Awesome today, there’s a great post called “Writing Is Not My Life.” In it, R.R. Russell talks about how she started getting a little turned off when she’d see people on forums talk about how all-consuming writing was to them and joyfully declare “Writing is my life!” Her point was that a good writer requires a strong outside life—friends and family for support and perspective, activities to broaden skills and relieve stress.

I completely agree, and I’d also add that I’m not a fan of treating writing like some kind of magical gift from the muses or like an unquenchable obsession.

Because the truth is, although I (obviously) really enjoy writing, it’s my job. It’s not magic. It’s what I am doing to (hopefully, someday) make money and to build a career. And there’s a big difference.

The problem with treating writing like magic is that, very often, the job is not magical. Very often it’s frustrating and disappointing, challenging and patience-testing. The wonderful days—days when you’re writing awesome, amazing stuff or days when you finally get that offer letter—are very few and far between, and if you spend your time focused on that, you won’t get anywhere.

I once heard someone say they only wrote when they felt inspired. My first thought was that they must not write very often. I love waking up every morning and getting to my desk, but I’ll be the first to admit that when you’re staring down a blank page with an empty brain, it’s not inspiration that fuels you to write—it’s the sheer realization that writing is your job and you don’t have to luxury to wait around for inspiration. You have to put something down.

There’s a great line from Tina Fey’s Bossypants, a quote from Lorne Michaels about Saturday Night Live: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.” That is exactly how I feel about writing. I don’t write because all the stars have aligned and the muse has floated down from the heavens to sprinkle me with fairy dust. I write because it’s 9:30 and I need to get my revisions done.

Writing isn’t my life. It’s my job. A fun, amazing, dream job, sure—but still a job with all its ups and downs. And like all jobs, it requires patience, tenacity, skill, and dedication in order to succeed.

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