Posted by: pendrops | November 2, 2006

different kind of elbow grease


Lately, I have been paralyzed by the unorthodox-ness of my approach to writing. When I set out a few months ago, I expected to work the standard American day: eight hours, 9 to 5, thank you very much. But I soon found out how unrealistic that would be and decided to back it down to six hours; three in the morning, three in the afternoon, with a nice lunch break and plenty of margin for running to the bank, the store, and Target.

But it didn’t take long for me to feel guilty, to doubt my level of diligence. Not only am I not making any money on this gig, I’m not even “working” a full day now. Still, I argued with myself, reasoning that art is draining. That it takes just as much, if not more, elbow grease to write a 1,500-word magazine article as it does to fix a car’s engine, suture a deep cut, or teach multiplication to 3rd graders. It’s just a different kind of elbow grease.

I didn’t really believe that argument until today. Stephen King, of all people, made me believe it. In his book, On Writing, King defines a “strenuous” workday for a writer as “four to six hours” of reading and writing. I practically fell out of my chair as I read and re-read his words. It wasn’t a lightning bolt or an earthquake, and I’m sure King didn’t give tons of thought to this particular sentence. But it was the gentle whisper I needed to hear.

I’m already doing that, I thought, scanning the words again. The reigning sovereign of horror fiction says four to six hours every day is acceptable, even a heavy load. I am doing something right, I decided, emotionally patting myself on the back.

While my insecurity may still get the best of me, while I may imagine that people think I sit around all day eating Bon-Bons and watching reruns of Love Connection, and while some rat-race-runners may think I’m a lazy artsy-fart, I am done doubting myself.

Writing is a different beast. I’m learning that. Like all art, you can’t quantify it or compare it to an office job. So, I’m setting out today in confidence. Confidence in the time and effort I am pouring into this dream. Certainty in the unpredictable fruits my work will yield. And freedom in my passion for words and their power to convey truth, hope and humanity.

(And, for the record, I only turn on Love Connection when I’m in a real slump.)


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