Thursday, July 13, 2006

The giving up rant

This is my desktop picture today:
There. Now that we're all relaxed, I'm going to rant.

You know who bothers me? Who really, really pisses me off? People who say they want to be writers, but don't want to do the WORK.

I had a friend once who said she wanted to be a writer. In fact, she was working on a book, off and on. More off than on, but sometimes we all have periods in our life like that, right? That's okay as long as you are committed and get back to it, keep at it. But here's the thing I realized, after a while: she quit every time it got hard. Every time.

Writing is hard. When you first start out, it's like motherhood--no matter what everyone else tells you, you think, deep down, that it's going to be easy for YOU. Your child will sleep through the night from birth; your book will flow effortlessly from your fingertips. Same delusion.

There were times during the course of writing my book that I hated it. I hated that I spent every single lunch hour locked inside my office staring at the screen. I hated that I could spend 3 days on a scene, and then realize I had to throw it all out because it was crap. I hated that I had to revise, and revise, and revise, and revise again. This, all this, did not make me stop.

I credit much of the discipline I have to my early ballet training. From the ages of about 10 to 16 I danced at least 3 hours a day, every day except Sunday. From ballet I learned that you must practice past the point of exhaustion, over and over, to succeed--and that you will fail sometimes no matter how hard you try. Failure is a part of the process. The trick is that you keep going and try it again.

So it frustrates me when people stop at one failure, or even one difficulty. Writing IS like ballet--it's an art that must be learned and practiced. No one is born being good at ballet or writing. How can you be a writer, how can you even hope to achieve success in this very difficult, competitive field if you aren't willing to work, and learn, and be utterly committed to the process?

I wish that friend well, but I can tell you that she will not be a successful writer. Nor will the others I see who give up at the difficult places, who give in to the lure to go try another book instead of finishing this one, or "take a year off" when they get a rejection or two. You have to be driven to do this crazy business called writing. And you have to learn to never, never give up.

Medieval Word of the Day: awede: To become mad, furious, or frantic; to lose one's senses.

15 comments:

Julie said...

Thanks, Susan, for posting this. The person you wrote about could have been me. If you'll notice, the last few posts on my blog have been about writing. because I've been thinking about The Novel so much.

Thinking being the keyword there. I need to stop thinking about the writing process. I need to stop thinking about the publishing stage years down the road. I need to stop thinking about writing and just do it.

Thanks! :D

Susan Adrian said...

Julie:

Well, it wasn't you. {g} But yes, stop thinking and DO! That's the only way it will get done.

Susan

Vicki Pettersson said...

Amen, Sistah!
And another rant (perhaps you can post this one tomorrow): talking about writing isn't writing. Thinking about it isn't writing. Dreaming about it isn't writing.
Writing is writing.

(And Julie, I'm not talking about you, either. I'm just sayin')

And REwriting the same page over and over for five years isn't writing. Your skills grow when you continue to put the words down on the page (and not the same ones at that). This is why I gave up my historical after five years. I realized I was writing in circles. And I was no longer the same person who'd started that book, either.

What else? Um...well, what you said.

Oh, and you're so right about ballet. My ballet teacher told me when I was thirteen that no matter what else I went on to do in life, the discipline of dance would help me. She was so right.

Susan Adrian said...

Vic:

I do believe you and I are on the same page on this one. {g} And yes, you're right about the other point too! You must write to be a writer, not talk about writing.

And ballet? My essay about what I learned from ballet got me into college. {g}

Suze

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear! You need to be hitting the keys everyday even if all you are doing is jotting down ideas. I have had three word ideas end up being 16 pages long. Not in the same day, but because I came back to them and tweaked them incessantly. I am amazed at how much creativity I have with a keyboard under my fingertips, opposed to "thinking" at random. --Carol

Susan Adrian said...

Carol:

Thanks for your comments! I've actually found the "every day" thing varies among writers. I actually often take weekends off most times. BUT I'm committed to writing, I write every chance I can, and that's the important part. And I don't give up. {s}

Susan

Julie said...

This is why I love blogging and the internet in general. There is so much to learn from others, and so much inspiration to be had, especially for an aspiring author in the company of a more experienced crowd.

Thank you Susan, for beign such an inspriation.

(and don't worry, I didn't think you were talking about me, I just saw myself in the woman you described)

Rose said...

Holy crap, it's me. Isn't it? Well, I guess not since I'll _never_ give up, but boy, do I see myself here.

Thanks for ranting and I love reading your blog even though I don't get to as much as I want to.

Smooches,
Rose

Susan Adrian said...

Rose:

Of COURSE it's not you! Not even close. You keep working at it, and you don't quit when it gets tough. :)

Glad you liked it!

Suze

Amy said...

Hi... I'm a friend of Julie's, and she linked me to this (obviously).

You've actually made me feel a bit guilty, because as Julie will confirm, I have told so may people my story ideas...and written maybe five of the ten scenes I would talk about.

To some defense with the baby analogty, it really is harder, because you don't get maternity leave, and if you say, "sorry, I need extra time, I need to feed the story," you get snapped at.

However, I suppose even mothers do have that. They have other children, they have friends, and they have family. Not to mention household chores and pets. So maybe it's really about prioritizing. Everything is important, so everything must be done and nurtured.

Anyway, thanks for pointing all this out. It really made me realize I have to stop talking and start writing.

Cindy said...

Dear Susan:
Uh. Yeah.... (g)
You could be referring to me. (She says, hearing strains of Carly Simon singing "You're so Vain") This post has me squirming, but it can't be me, I'm still slogging along.

And Vicki has me figured out too, I see, with the talking-isn't-writing thing. Guilty there, too, sometimes.

Thanks for this post. Someday I'll put you and Vicki right at the top of my acks, because the isolation gets to me sometimes, and you do keep me going.

Sara Walker Howe said...

-ducking in quick...

*applause, applause*

--dashing back out...
(it's been a hell of a week)

Susan Adrian said...

Amy:

Thanks for coming by! Yes, mothers have that too; not everybody's willing to give way to let you give all the attention you want to the baby, believe it or not. Especially true for mothers who work outside the home.

But I didn't mean to make anybody feel guilty. I was just noting a difference between those willing to work and those not! Hmmm, maybe will post more about this today. :)

Susan

Susan Adrian said...

Cindy:

LOL! I just used the "you're so vain" reference to somebody else who thought it was about them. {BG}

No, it's not you either. And I look forward to being in your ACKS!

Susan

Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, Sara! So sorry you've had a hell of a week...