Mr. Pond wrote an encouraging post last week titled on giving up, or not, in which he discussed the life-or-death line between a story that is hard to write and a story that hurts to write. It's an all-important distinction, and one I've even had to take into account in this November madhouse that is National Novel Writing Month.
This is sort of a response, but not really a debate, so I won't call it blogalectic. I'll just recommend his post, particularly if you're the writing type, or the running type, or just someone who has to persevere at something. Knowing when to go on and when to stop matters.
Right now I'm procrastinating on my novel by writing a blog-post. A Monday blog for which I have made zero preparation isn't more fun to write than a novel; it just seemed easier. Much as I need to stay caught up and get ahead, right now I feel like I'd make more progress trying to push my way through a brick wall than trying to write 1,667 words of this fiction.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you. There's a big difference between the me of last Monday and the me of today. The hard work at last feels like worthwhile hard work. I've got story I can move forward with. I might be pushing brick walls, but at least I'm braced against solid ground.
Writing gets romanticized as wild artistic inspiration, but anyone who writes seriously knows the crazy amount of effort that goes into making a flight of fancy appear smooth and artistic. Ever seen a world-class figure skater pull off a triple axel? Three and one-half revolutions, waltz jump into loop position, left forward outside edge to right backward outside edge, and they land on one foot with their arms gracefully outstretched. Ever tried to pull off even a single axel? I have, and without the added hazards of skates or ice. Suffice it to say that it is nowhere near as easy as it looks.
Writing professionally, writing for publication, attempting to write a book worthy of being read and re-read and loved—this involves the kind of disciplined effort that makes it possible for one human to gracefully perform a feat that the average human could wind up in traction for even trying.
Sometimes I wonder why I claim to love writing, since it is far more work than fun. But then, some people love gardening, and that is also not fun. Some people love running, and that is downright miserable. And I've known a handful of people who loved mountain-climbing, which experienced Alpinist Wojciech Kurtyka has called "the art of suffering."
Anyone who loves something that involves this much struggle and effort just needs to be stubborn. Fortunately, that's one of my stronger traits. (Also one of my greatest weaknesses, but that's a different blog-post. :P) In perseverance we imitate the dandelion, which is possibly the most stubborn living thing in all of nature. Dandelions can get through bricks (or concrete sidewalks, anyway). A little pressure from underneath, in just the right place; the mortar cracks, the brick heaves up a little, and out comes the flower on the other side.
Of course, then the flower is still a dandelion. But hey, all analogies break down somewhere, right? Okay, I think I'm getting loopy. NaNoWriMo will do that to you. Back to work now.