3 min read

Countless hours create minutes of sheer awesome

At the desk, 8:14 a.m.

I want to share with you this video. It's 2 minutes long, great music, and has two young men Irish dancing (or céilí). If you have a chance, take a look.

I've watched the video a few times. I love their attitude and capacity. And, in each movement, I see the countless hours of practice, a mother's or father's worry, a teacher's perfectionism, the bounty of boy energy, and the joy of youth. In the two minutes, these young men hold only the wealth of their capacity, the strength of their practice and hard work, and the joy of doing something they're good at.

Writing is one of the only art forms where people assume that their first prose should be seen on the best sellers list. In fact, not only does the writer assume that, every waiter, well intended friend, and any reader assumes the same thing.

Imagine you were a painter. Would your first painting be worth a million dollars? Two dollars? Neither.

Imagine you were a farmer. Would the first plant you ever planted in a new field grow a bounty fit for a king? Probably not.

Imagine you were a carpenter. Carpentry is a profession which involves years of apprenticeship until step by step you become a master carpenter. And even then, you'll spend a lot of days making a lot of non-academy award winning front porch steps.

But people sit down at their computers to type and assume the first agent, publisher, and reader will see the beauty of their prose. Readers assume that first books should be perfect in every way. There are no imperfect recitals in writing. There are no second chances in story telling. There's only perfectionism and the people willing to tell you that you did it wrong.

I think it stems from the sheer lack of respect for authors. Everyone from the grocer to the college professor believes in their heart and soul that they can write a best selling book. Think about it. How many times have you heard: "If this profession fails, I can always be a writer"?

I hear it all the time - "When I'm rich, I'm going to write." "I have an entire book written right up here," which is said with a delicate finger to the temple. And on and on.

Unlike most art forms, the world believes that storytelling is easy. All you have to do is put your rear in  your chair and begin to type. That's it.

But truth be told, writing is hard work that requires countless hours of work creating and editing the prose. And when you're done, there's weeks of sleepless nights wrestling with this word or that word until you throw the manuscript at the feet of some expensive content editor who decides your manuscript is on track or off track. Disgusted by the whole thing, you send your manuscript through rounds of copy editing, proof editing, and formatting.

And only then are stories released to an audience who is likely to tell you that they don't like your use of commas, quotation marks, and say snide things wherever they can that a better author should be telling the story - not you. You see, writing is easy - and you didn't do it right.

Truth be told, writing is an art form. It takes practice and kind nurturing. It requires countless hours of perfectionism, days of deep thought and research, and years of rear widening practice. There's just no way around the 10 year, 10,000 hour thing. There are not short cuts. Writing is a day in day out exhausting battle against distraction and the very prose you're attempting to create.

It's not something to fall back on when you've run out of other options. It's frankly too much work.

So if you want to write, get writing. You've got 9,999 hours and 59 minutes left to go.

If you just worry about copy edits, ask yourself - when have you seen a perfect book?

Tolkien had endless years of struggle with copy edits. Dickens talks about his own foibles and copy errors in the preface to one of his "lost" books the Old Curiosity Shop. Joyce flew into rages over them. And in modern times, every Harry Potter book had the best and brightest editing them and still they missed things. Copy edits are the nature of books. If they bother you so much, maybe you should find something more soothing than reading prose.

So that turned into a rant. Sorry about that. I guess it's just something that's been on my mind. As always, I value your thoughts and comments. Tomorrow, I'm off getting much needed mulch and compost for the yard. I probably won't make it here. But I'll be back Sunday or Monday.