“So…you’re just…sitting there. Thinking. Typing. What else do you do?”
Something that I find amusing, but not in a “Ha Ha what a dumbass” kind of way, is that many people think being a writer is some strange process involving charts, graphs, good luck charms, and possibly a magic wand. The creation of a story into a book is twisted in its mythology. As though written, edited, and published books come out of an elf factory near Santa’s Workshop and are delivered to bookstores (or online sites) by dragon.
Let’s be honest–it’d be a lot cooler if that were true.
Your average person just can’t wrap their head around how a writer creates this whole story (especially stories involving high fantasy or epic adventure with lots of world-building) out of thin air. They assume that there is ritual and pomp and circumstance, some sorcery that has been bequeathed by some divine force to specific, deserving people who live among us. An author is…a chosen one.
It’s been implied to me many times that my process seems “boring,” and not at all a magical ritual where offerings are made to the gods and beams of light pour through the window to illuminate my laptop, announcing that it is now time to write. Your inspiration has arrived! Follow the muse! Instead, they see a coffee cup, a glass of water, and a confused asshole staring at nothing as he lets his mind wander.
It’s quite like pulling back he curtain to find The Great and Powerful Oz is just some hick from Kansas pulling levers and rods. Your once revered and all-powerful wizard isn’t all you expected thanks to the mythology (either of their own or others’ creation) that surrounds them.
Being an author is a job. It’s a skill that interest and talent births and practice gives life. It’s like being a lawyer or baker. Not that winning a case before the Supreme Court or baking the perfect pie doesn’t feel magical–it was really just perseverance, skill, talent, and tons of practice.
I posted a Writing Community Spectator video on Twitter within the last few weeks. It’s where I screen recorded a writing session, compressed it for time, and then displayed it for everyone to watch. Within the next 3 days, I got about a dozen DMs asking me what was basically the same question. Most people wanted to know if I just sit down and write and see what happens, or if there’s more to the process. Why wasn’t what they saw fitting what they imagined my work to be? I mean, you just sit there and type? That’s not all that exciting…
Look, if I recorded one of my writing sessions that was hours-long (I’ve had marathon writing sessions that exceeded 12 hours before), you’d see more interesting stuff. I’m not proud to admit it, but my writing sessions that go on for hours usually involve checking the dictionary and thesaurus, checking my grammar, looking up random facts and information I’m not sure about, taking quizzes on Buzzfeed, checking Twitter, playing silly free games online…and some writing.
When I know exactly what I want a chapter to be, I can type it out in an hour or two. Maybe even more quickly than that. I type pretty fast when I’m inspired. However, if I don’t know precisely what I want, it can take a day to write. Maybe even longer if I give up after several hours and decide to revisit it the next day. It just depends on what I’m writing, my energy level, my focus, and how well my imagination is working that day. You can never really tell what will happen when I sit down with the intent to write.
But the process itself is never magic. It’s hard work. It’s focus. It’s dedication. It’s education and learning. It’s tears and sweat and countless hours in front of a screen when I’d rather be playing with my dog or spending time with Bae. It’s like any other job, really–except I get to live in worlds of my own creation. So, while it’s still pretty cool, it’s still work.
Sometimes, when something I never expected to happen, like a new plot idea, or connecting scenes together is seamless, or I think of having a character do something that elevates the plot even more, it feels magical. The magic is something I feel as the writer, though. It’s invisible and indiscernible to others–so you’d never know it by watching me.
Minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month (and sometimes even year after year), a book gets worked on by the writer. They piece the characters and plots together, weaving and fixing as they go. Then, one day….book. To the reader, it seems they are holding magic in their hands, but to the writer, their blood, sweat, and tears are held between those pages. It’s not as important as saving a life as a doctor or nurse, or putting out a fire as a fireman, but it feels like the writer has contributed something meaningful to society. They’ve added to their legacy.
For writers–though I can’t speak for us all–the true magic for us is when someone reads our book(s) and loves it(them). When we’ve allowed a reader to escape their life for hours and enjoy our stories, that’s magic. Sweeping a person away to far away lands, or introducing them to a character they love, or hitting them right in the feels is magical. The path to that moment is pretty humdrum, but it’s all worth it in the end if the readers enjoy it.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,