Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unspoken Things

We've all heard the gripes and complaints about the writing game - the difficulties completing the first draft, the pain of editing and revising, revising, revising and the further indignities of yet another god-damned edit and revision before casting the piece adrift, only to see it flounder on the shoals of editorial whims.  Yes, and then, when it does sell, seeing the niggling copyedits, the galley mistakes, and finally, seeing a botched print job, poor cover art or illustration or all three, and usually at once.  We've all heard the litany of missing manuscripts, computer failures, files forever lost or worse, unreadable. Then there are unsympathetic agents, penny-pinching editors, illiterate copyeditors, and other hated minions who dislike your work.

On and on, the writers complain at the cons, on facebook, twitter, myspace, and a thousand other channels of the bitter hand fate has dealt them by cursing them with the writing compulsion. They say a better income could be realized flipping burgers, a better marriage if only they didn't waste time at the desk, happier kids if they took the time to be with them instead of cursing and slaving at the word-smithing anvil they've chained themselves to.  Yeah, all that.

But the thing they're reluctant to tell you, the precious secret that they all hold in the deepest recesses of their being is the absolute joy they experience while writing.  They rarely mention the high they achieve by crafting the perfect phrase, choosing the precise word, or arranging the well-crafted scene.  Joseph Campbell said to "follow your bliss ..." will lead you to a life of happiness. You may not be wealthy, healthy, or respected as a result of writing, but you will be happy.  

In writing as well and over time one gets more pleasure as their skill in the craft improves.  Just as a marathon runner experiences a high after they hit the wall, so too does a writer feel a jolt of exhilaration when that penultimate revision recedes into memory and only the final editorial gloss remains.  Acceptance provides satisfaction for a time, publication gives a temporary glow, and the income a certain feeling of accomplishment, but the true writer's joy comes from none of those - it comes from simply knowing that you have created a well-structured and carefully edited story.

And that, more than anything, is the meaning of joy.

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