Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The first word is always the hardest

Making the decision to pick up a writing career that's been if not dead, at least in deep hibernation for 15 years wasn't as easy as it may sound.  And so the blog is my way of thinking through that decision aloud, if you will.

The writing itself is never difficult.

This morning at my local coffee shop a friend asked me if writing a book takes a long time.  The immediate response might have been, "What do you think?" because I can't imagine anyone actually thinking that a book, a full-length novel, can be written quickly.  Instead, I asked him, "How long would it take you to type 100,000 words?"

He looked at me as if he couldn't even make a connection between the mere typing of 100,000 words and the creation of a novel.  As he began to calculate 30 (laborious) words per minute into 100,000 words, he began to recognize that there is a time element.

I then added, while he was still doing the mental arithmetic, "That's just the typing.  Throw in the selection of the right words, the rewriting, the research time, the editing, the planning and thinking and rethinking. . . ." at which point he said, "So I guess it does take quite a long time."

Now, maybe you're thinking "Well, duh, dude!" which would be a justified reaction.  Of course it takes time to write a book.  How long?  That's one of those "It depends" questions.

But as I contemplate whether or not I really want to get back into this in a serious way, the actual time involved in writing something publishable has to be a consideration.

After my friend made his astute observation that writing a novel takes time, and I explained that I have obligations -- job, house, canine family, etc. -- that also make demands on the limited number of hours in a day, he asked another question that may or may not have been related.  Well, it probably was related in his mind as he processed the notion that writing requires the particular species of time that is not already allocated to other endeavors.  Although one can mentally create a plot and sketch characters and explore conflicts and resolutions, the actual writing generally cannot be done while one is driving the dog to the vet or washing the supper dishes or doing the paid work one needs to do to pay the bills.  His question, however, did not relate to the specific amount of time needed or the means a writer resorts to to obtain that time, but rather to how the time, once it's available, is used.

He asked if I ever had periods when, you know, the words just didn't arrive. 

I said, "No."

"You mean you've never had, what do they call it, writer's block?"


The words are always there.  On a second or third or umpteenth review, they may not be the right ones and may be replaced with others.  Sometimes they're excised completely.  But they are there, always, one after another.  When the time is there, the words are there, ready and willing and eager.

It's the time that's the problem.

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