Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Writing and Water

I have no water. A call to my town revealed that this is because of a broken water main someplace; nobody has any water. After a morning of working hard on my current novel, I drove to buy some bottled water and also to have the car washed, a necessity since I can no longer see out of the windows for the salt, mud, and dried slush and am thus a potential danger to myself and the entire town of Irondequoit. As I drove, I passed the guys working on the water main. At the car wash, I saw the teenagers who hose down the cars pre-wash and wipe them off afterward.

It is 19 degrees out today. Both groups were bundled in coats, scarves, hats, work gloves, boots. Both were wet and, I imagine, wishing they were anywhere else. And I had a sudden epiphany: I had not "worked hard" on my writing.

Writing can be frustrating, draining, obsessive, and even painful, if rejected. But hard labor, it just ain't. Those guys were working hard. I, warm at my desk with a steaming mug of coffee, have no right to say I "worked hard." And I will not say it again.


TheOFloinn said...

I have felt the same way about performing artists "taking risks."

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Old Man Heinlein (my hero) said the same thing, Nancy. "Sitting in a warm room at a desk, at a typewriter, cannot =possibly= be considered 'work'."

Asimov, now what was it?--MURDER AT THE ABA--had his "Harlan Ellison" character ask the same about "Isaac Asimov."

"He hasn't worked up a sweat since he was in the Army. He sits all day at his typewriter.

His fingers are in good shape, though."

José Iriarte said...

I'm inclined to disagree.

I have students who would rather do hard labor than algebra or trigonometry. I think they'd concede that sitting in my air-conditioned room doing math is hard work for them.

For myself, I'll note that my physical failings shame me less than my intellectual ones. My beta readers have been waiting for mumblety-some days for my next chapter, because I've looked at the opening page, concluded it sucked, and then realized that I don't quite know how to make it not suck. At least, not without rewriting half the book. And I don't want to do that. Because it's work. Hard work.

I've had days where waxing the cat has taken the form of washing dishes, pulling weeds, changing the oil--because they've all seemed like less work than fixing my book.

(Now, if you want to argue that writing is not hard work but revising is, I might be more agreeable. ;-) )

Nancy Kress said...

Joe-- You have a point. Those of us who are natural slugs but find writing congenial might well see things differently than the physically fit among us.

I actually PREFER rewriting to writing. There's something there to work with.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Sure! 89.8754% of the work has been done! So what's left is to tweak, and marvel, "Ain't I pretty?/Ain't I cute?/From my C-plus head/To my Marsgal's workboot!" Hee-hee!