If you want a good laugh and also to be depressed, tell someone you are a writer. There are only about five responses people give to this revelation, the most obnoxious being “Oh yeah? I’m going to write a novel one day, when I have time.” I used to reply to this with a polite chuckle, now my response are words to effect of “bullshit“. This gives them a lovely shocked look on their face, and affords me time to explain to them why it’s the stupidest statement this side of “I am voting for Trump.”
You see, despite the plurality of writing clichés and platitudes, one holds true above all others: Writers write. There is a whole ton of other stuff you have to do it if you want to be a prolific writer, or a published writer, but if you want to write, well, buddy, there is only one thing you have to do.
That statement annoys me on so many levels. For one thing, it implies that I have nothing better to do with my time. First off, I have a million time-consuming, expensive hobbies I already don’t have time or money for, and they get pushed farther to the side to make room for writing. I love tabletop games. I play one, mainly, now, occasionally, and the miniatures are pre-painted. I used to have Warhammer armies, and paint them, and play two or three games a week. Hell, I used to read books just for the fun of it! Now reading turns into blog fodder. Oh, yeah, and I have a day job, because no one is throwing seven-figure book deals and Hollywood blockbuster contracts my way. You don’t have time to write? Yeah, me either pal. Make time.
And another thing – what, exactly, is your idea for the Great American Novel? You don’t have one? Do you have any clue what goes into writing a novel? I think the average fantasy goes something like this:
You sit down at your desk, elegantly cluttered with reference pages and an assortment of classy pens. A gentle breeze rustles the spring air outside your open window. You gracefully sip your tea before stretching your fingers, and begin typing at a furious pace, crafting your masterpiece.
Not how it works in the real world. In the real world, you get home from that day job, hungry and a tired and the last goddamn thing you want to do is think, but you are a writer, goddammit, so you turn on the oven to throw something you (no, you don’t know what yet, idiot), and sit down in your far-too-messy living room/office/spare bedroom at your far-too cluttered desk and try to ignore the unfolded laundry threatening to envelop your couch, like a blob monster in a B list horror movie. You open your manuscript and wonder who hacked into your Dropbox and wrote this steaming pile of horseshit, and then remember oh yeah it was me at 11:30pm last night so whatever and you press on anyway, but now you’re thinking about fucking blob monsters and has there been any good fiction about blob monsters lately and no I am writing about spaceships right now, stay on task, jesus. So you manage to write and write and write and wow this is actually good and I am making really good progress five hundered words what the hell, I’ve been at this for hours. OK a little more and then shit I forgot to put anything in the oven.
Out of the sheer mercy of my heart, I will not address outlining or editing.
I will, however, tell you that your Great American Novel actually sucks and will be rejected until your soul is nothing but ash and you are positive no one ever loved, if in fact love ever existed. You know those stories about Famous Author being rejected by FIVE publishing houses? You will be rejected by that many in a day. But sure, take your time. Whenever you get around to it. The rest of us will be over here, busting our asses, trying to be better writers, trying to catch that break, and we will be tired and stressed and occasionally sober. But we will be writers.