Writers Hate Writing. Really?

I guess it used to be hard to write a novel, scribbling across the parchment with your quill, fretting every time you make a mistake, blotting the ink… Even a young 50-year-old like me wonders how he ever typed college papers … remember Tippex anyone (I believe it was called White Out here in the colonies)?

So now everyone’s a writer. I get it. But what I don’t understand is the complaining about writing. I opened a Writer’s Digest this weekend, an old one from the end of 2012, and it was full of articles on Writer’s Block, discipline, and how we need to force ourselves to write.

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In the space of 24 hours, I was interviewed by a high school student who kept asking about writer’s block, discipline, and how I maintain my focus; then I was invited to speak at a workshop on Writer’s Block.

In the aforementioned issue of Writer’s Digest, there are articles and a hilarious graph (way to go Zachery Petit) on doing everything but writing. One article is about overcoming writer’s block without willpower, another has you spending an hour or so writing and the rest of the day doing all kinds of wonderful “author” things like visiting bookstores and doing field research. There is an article about extreme measures authors took to keep their “butt in the seat,” including Frank Burrows who would chain himself to a chair and drink lots of Tab (a soda that is pretty torturous in itself) so that his bladder was bursting, I assume.

William Styron is quoted as saying: “I certainly don’t enjoy writing. I get a fine warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it: Writing is hell.”

The author of the article continues: “I get it. I get why writers hate writing.”

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I don’t! I really don’t! If you don’t enjoy writing don’t do it. There are things we all have to do: taxes, flossing, cleaning the bathroom, but not writing. Sure there are hard times: when the plot doesn’t work, or when your heroine does something out-of-character, but to hate writing?

I LOVE writing. I can’t wait to fire up my laptop and pound the keys. When I am not writing, I become frustrated and (according to my family) pretty darn annoying. I LOVE the thrill of the unknown plot twist. I CRAVE the company of my characters, and I RIDE the adrenaline rush of the scenes unfolding under my fingertips.

When a beloved character fails or dies, I cry. When battle is joined, I apparently mumble and wince out loud as people are wounded or killed. I have never learned how to type properly (touch typing?), but my fingers fly across the keyboard as I get increasingly excited. Sure there are many squiggly red and green lines, but I can worry about that later.

When I finish a novel, the first thing I want to do is celebrate. The second thing is to start the next book. In my own fantasy world, I would just write the novels. Others would edit, market and do all the other ‘stuff’ that authors need to do these days. I just wanna write.

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I don’t mean nothing else. I love my day job and feel I am, as Steve Jobs expressed: ‘helping to put a dent in the world.’ I love my family and am truly blessed to have a soul mate who tolerates me with all my quirks. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

The high school student asked at the end of our interview:” “When do you know you are a writer?” I answered that it’s when you never leave the story, even when you are doing something else. It’s when you crave returning to the computer and when you take immense pride in the story unfolding.

That is my answer. Every author probably has something different to offer and I am sure they are all right. But I hate writing just doesn’t make any sense.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree,  and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

 

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To The Long Suffering Writer’s Spouse

I was rather surprised at the well of support for Mrs. Elfwriter in reaction to my recent blog post – The Addiction of Novel Writers. I would have thought that most of my loyal readers and followers would be, well, loyal. I assumed that those who follow the Wycaan Master series would appreciate the committed and fast output of the possessed writer, and that the writers who follow this blog would identify with me (the writer!).

However, this is not the case. It appears that the vast majority of followers are women and the gender bond transcends any of the above expectations. Ironically, this post was viewed over the aforementioned spouse’s birthday, so here in the interest of clarity is my appreciation of the long- suffering Writer’s Spouse.

My own spouse first objected to being referred to as Mrs. Elfwriter. This summer, she proudly received her Psy.D. She should be duly addressed as Dr. Elfwriter!

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I have yet to meet anyone who admits when they married their author-spouse, they truly understood what they were taking on. This suggests a number of options. Either they didn’t know that their beloved was a writer, thought they would not remain a writer (an author is a writer who never gave up), or were simply blinded by love.

Let me declare myself a romantic and vouch for the last. Truth is, none of us see it coming. I am consistently shocked at how consumed I become in the story, how concerned with the characters, how…

I digress. This is about the spouse, not the author.

Not only do they not sign on for this, but they often find themselves on the frontiers of our idiosyncrasies, that is having to explain our strange behaviors to everyone else. After driving 10 hours to our in-laws and being utterly exhausted, I would hug my relatives and then disappear to occupy my dear mother-in-law’s study that she generously relinquished to me during our stay. Why couldn’t I wait until the next day and relax? I had just spent 10 hours on the road thinking of new scenes and characters. My wife somehow explains this to her parents, though I doubt she would do so well with the California Highway Patrol, if I whipped out my laptop to make notes while driving! “What if I name a character after you, Officer?

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So how can we repay our loyal partners? Sometimes, we have to just stand up and say Thank You.  I hope I got it right in the dedication I wrote in Sacrificial Flame – Wycaan Master Book 4. I meant every word.

 

DEDICATION

The storyteller’s path can be lonely for those who become consumed, who stand with one foot in another world, who hold responsibility for characters and their destiny.

But the path is just as demanding for those who support the storyteller’s journey, those who walk side-by-side with the writer even when he is called to another world, those who are left behind in this world, those who ensure that reality continues.

They make the excuses for the writer when he is late, bridge the gap when he is distant, bring balance when another world consumes.

To Ariela, my life partner and soul mate, who gives me the freedom to soar above the land of Odessiya

and who acts as my lodestar, my compass that always leads me home.

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Have a great week and happy belated birthday, Dr. Elfwriter!
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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+