Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Tough Job

Permit me a moment or two to talk politics. (From the Greek Poly, meaning Many, and Tics, meaning blood sucking parasites.) We have just had a general election, in case you didn't notice, and now have a shiny new Government charged with the very difficult task of running a country in enormous debt courtesy of the previous administration. I'm very pleased with the outcome. We don't vote for the Prime Minister, but I did vote for his party, and I'm even quite pleased that we now have a power sharing coalition government. Not only does it mean that the two parties will temper each others excesses and extremes, but Nick Clegg is a good looking guy and I felt so sorry for him only getting fifty seats.

We're prepared for a bit of austerity. We know that the Government has a really tough job ahead, trying to rebuild Britain. I don't envy them the task, any more than I envy nurses, teachers or anyone who does a job I know I couldn't do.

I have been doing my day job for twelve years. It's no longer challenging, although it is fun and varied. I could do it standing on my head, and I'm quite comfortable that I am exactly suited to my choice of career as an office administrator. Writing is another matter. I always thought it was relatively easy. I sit at a computer, and I type out a story using lots of big descriptive words. Then someone publishes it and gives me money.

I realised this past weekend that it isn't easy at all. That's not to say it isn't enjoyable, but I've decided, on a whim, that the book I am writing at the moment (a fantasy called Emon and the Empire) is to be my Magnum Opus and thus it needs to be as good, as intelligent, as gripping and as perfect as it can be. I was writing it on my laptop over the weekend and sitting next to me was a young man from our Ward who was visiting my husband. He watched me for a while, then said "Is this one you've finished and are going through?"

I replied that actually I was only about a third of the way through it, and wondered why he would have that idea. Then I realised that for the past hour I had just been reading through the chapter I had written the previous week, tweaking it, improving it, deleting from it, but I hadn't actually written any new material yet. He'd yet to see me actually write anything.

Easterfield, my last published book, was a joy to write. It fell out of my fingertips with hardly any thought or effort on my part. But Emon needs to be the very best I can do, and that means thinking about every word, drafting and redrafting chapter summaries and plot outlines, checking for character continuity, and then going back and checking what I just wrote against what I wrote three weeks ago, and basically putting in more effort than I have ever done before. It's not an easy job, but I want to do the very best I can this time and, like anything in life, that means hard work. I hadn't realised until now that writing is hard work. At least, it is if you're doing it properly. Very few of us are so naturally gifted that we can turn out witty, brilliant yet moving prose with little thought. Do you think even Terry Pratchett agonises over each paragraph?

The simple fact with writing, too, is that you don't get paid according to the work you do. Well, unless you're Sir Terry Pratchett. If I counted all the hours I spent writing a book, and then divided my royalties between them, I'd probably find I earn about $1 an hour.

But I'd still rather write than run the country, or nurse sick people, or teach unruly children. I admire people who do those near impossible jobs because I know I couldn't. But at least now I have realised that one of the jobs I do can also be a difficult one.

1 comment:

Cheri J. Crane said...

Anna, I agree--running the government would not be my idea of a fun time. I did once think seriously about becoming either a teacher or a nurse, but life threw a few curves and I became a writer instead. ;) It is a challenging, difficult job, but one I love. Like you, I have figured out that I make a pittance in comparison to other careers. There are other rewards and that is why I continue dabbling with the written word.