The Best Concrete (On Writing: The Good of Being a Writer)

“When you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

–  Stephen King


So today here I am, with a post considerably less bleak than last night’s. Today I discuss what I believe to be the best part about writing stories; in my case, specifically, novels.

Well, there’s the obvious summary: writing equals freedom. You can literally say whatever you want, in exactly the way you want, using the exact phrases and structuring you want. Okay, so it isn’t quite that simple. Looking through the “reality” lens of this situation, we all know that novel writing isn’t total freedom. Good novel writing isn’t, at least. Good novel writing is about adhering to a structure, keeping your story constantly on a very precise track.

But guess what? You build that track. Admittedly, it takes some work to build that track in the proper way, then to stay on it through the course of the story, then to drive back over that track smoothing out every pebble that worked its way into the structure.

No one said writing well was easy. And if they did, please send them to me so I can slap them upside the head. Yes, some people are better at it than others, and in general, the better ones are the ones who are published. But it’s also an acquired skill.

However, I’m getting off-track (Ha! Zing! Okay, sorry). My point is that yes, writing gets a teensy bit less fun when you’re worried about being good. But just as you have the freedom to change the plot twist of your book, you have the freedom to decide not to worry about writing being good.

In fact, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say we all need to get bad writing out of our system before the good can start. Some people get this bad writing out through blogs (ahem), some through manuscripts that they later throw out, and some just write badly their whole lives without giving a second thought to ever getting published.

And that’s another great thing about writing. No one said you have to be good at it. No, abysmal authors don’t necessarily belong in the publishing world, but it’s perfectly fine to write badly and keep those bad writings for yourself. No grammar Nazi is going to kick down your door (I promise I’ll restrain myself) and demand you learn the difference between “its” and “it’s.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying the world is full of bad writers, nor am I saying that writing badly is a super awesome thing to do. I’m just saying that writing is like driving: anyone can do it, but it takes practice to get better. Not to mention that both are a lot harder than they look.

But luckily, writing is also one of the few hobbies in the world that you control, really control, in terms of what gets set in stone. Words are concrete, but only when you’ve made them concrete. My bigger point here is that writing is like the world’s best cement: you can mix it around all you want—your whole life, even—and wait until it’s perfect before letting it sit. Then you’ve formed a beautiful thing that some people might even be interested in.

To me, that’s total freedom. The power to mold something in your perfect image, and only show it off when you’re totally happy with it. The molding itself might be a somewhat tedious process, but coming up with the project idea gives you enough excitement (usually, but not always) to power through, finish at least the rough sculpting, before stepping back and giving your brainchild a fix-up.

Or, in my case, seven or eight fix-ups. Believe it or not, my manuscript used to be quite a bit worse than it is now. The reason I can so confidently look at it and say “that could suck a lot more” is because at one point, it did.

But the best part comes now, when the fixing up nears its end. When you finally step back, look over what you created, and realize that you can’t find anything wrong with it.

Okay, so in reality the best part is when that creation gets a six-figure publishing deal. But I don’t have experience with that, so I’ll avoid the subject for now.

Happy creating, everyone.