Tuesday, February 11, 2003

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again."

                              --Oscar Wilde.

There are a number of generally-held views of what a writer's day is like. Sometimes we envision a person doing a lot of contemplation of his or her own navel; other times we envision a skinny person sitting in a bare room banging away on a typewriter at great speed, enhanced by caffeine and nicotine, pausing only to rip the current sheet out of the typewriter, crumple it, and toss it into a wire-frame garbage can the floor around which is littered with dozens of crumpled versions of the same page. We envision something like Wilde's quote above, a writer poring over many a manuscript, moving single words around in deep concentration.

For some writers, though, it's actual work. Witness a day in the life of Sheila Viehl.

Of course, all writers are different. Sheila works in several different genres and these days she has a lot of projects going on at once. Not all writers work as hard as she does, but for all writers, it is work. Writing is not sitting around, waiting for the inspiration to show up. Writing is sitting at the desk every day, wringing the inspiration from one's fingers until they bleed. And if it's a dry day, with no inspiration to be found, it's still work.

I came across another nifty quote the other day, but I've already forgotten the source: "The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more work." That applies to everything, really, but it really applies to writing.

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