I remember the beginning of my writing journey. It was fun. It was something that other people weren’t doing. I could spend hours in my story world, carving characters and scenes out of nothing. Paper was like marble, and somewhere in there was an angel!
Writing got harder and harder. I started growing up, living more in my head. I was less focused on building exciting scenes, and more ambitious about spending pages describing madeleine cookies. I wanted a two-page scene to become ten pages, so I could spend time sculpting out more significance, more meaning. A deeper-feeling story. I wanted a story that would jump off the page and become real and dance before the reader’s eyes like pixies on the forest floor, conjuring Cottingley Fairies like a laid-back birthday party magician.
It turned out to be harder than all that. The first thing I had to overcome was the desire for complexity in stories. Simple is the hardest thing in life, and if I wanted to start finishing stories again, good stories, I’d have to keep them simple. Children, lacking a realistic concept of time, have no patience, and that’s why children’s books are so easy to read. I would have to take my stories less seriously.
The second thing that I had to accept was that writing is WORK. It’s not a frolic, it’s not a fantasy. If you want to get things done, you have to work hard. I suddenly see an old man materialize on my desk, in a rocker, a wrinkled face and a pipe, and he says wisely, “Hard work is its own reward!” and then vanishes in a poof of tractor smoke. It’s true, but not in the sense we believed when we rolled our eyes as teenagers.
Hard work produces good work. That’s a fact. It doesn’t matter how crappy your story is, or what a bum job you were given, or how low-quality your ingredients for dinner are. If you work hard, what you make WILL be good. So instead of sitting around and waiting for inspiration, or spending days plotting out novel words, nowadays I simply grab my notebook and head to the cafeteria to sip cheap coffee and just write. Write every day. Make art every day. Keep good studio habits. Above all, work hard and your work will be good.