I used to think writing sounded like a pretty good job. What’s not to like? You sit around in your garret, or on a balcony overlooking Waikiki Beach, or wherever and jot down whatever pops into your head, while the money just keeps piling up in your bank account. (Writers generally start out in a garret and upgrade to the Waikiki balcony at a later time.)
But now I have a more mature, nuanced view: Writing sucks!
First, there are two kinds of writing: fiction and non-fiction. Fiction is about telling engaging stories, with relatable
characters, and then selling the movie rights. It all sounds good until you sit down to try to do it. There are plenty of stories
around, so you don’t even have to make one up. It’s considered acceptable to re-tell existing stories, even well-known
ones. Shakespeare did this, and he’s the greatest writer who ever lived. If you’re desperate, you can use something that
actually happened to you (if anything ever happened to you, which is unlikely if you’re holed up in that garret all the time.)
The problem is that you have to drag it out. You can’t just say “Pinocchio’s nose grew when he lied, so he learned not to lie and
became a real boy instead of a politician.” There! End of story! Why drag it out for pages and pages, with all kinds of other
characters … a fox and a cat and a mean old circus owner. Really? Seems like Collodi went to a great deal of trouble for something
that could be said in one sentence.
And then there’s the problem of characters. You can’t just use your mom or your brother or your best friend because they’ll never
speak to you again (which might be a good thing if you’re easily distracted from writing.) In general, it’s a good idea not to piss
off your friends and family. Who else is going to read your stuff?
So let’s say you come up with some characters. Again, you have to drag it out. You can’t just say “Tom Sawyer, a brash young man,
and Huckleberry Finn, his independent-minded friend, had a naive love of adventure which led them into many scrapes.” Instead, you
have to describe all the things they said and did, and let the readers figure out what kinds of characters they are. What a pain!
Non-fiction is easier in that sense. You just write about what you know. But know is the operative word here. You have to know
something. You could, of course, just make stuff up, but then it has a tendency to become fiction. Or politics.
Luckily, however, you don’t have to know much to be a non-fiction writer. Take a look at the books that are out there and you’ll see
what I mean. Donald Trump has a few books out, and nobody’s more ignorant than that.
I guess the best thing is just to write a memoir. You just describe stuff that happened to you (when you weren’t in your garret.)
The only problem with this is … nobody cares.
And of course everyone's familiar with the dreaded syndrome known as writer’s