JB Lynn's post yesterday about her road to publication (YAY, GIRL!), I thought it would be interesting to downshift a little and talk about how hard we writers work to actually finish a book, never mind what might or might not come afterward.
I think it was Thomas Edison who said that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. I'm by no means a genius, but I can definitely apply this percentage to my writing. My books are definitely 1% Aha! moments and 99% white-knuckling and teeth-gritting to get the damn book done. In other words, writing is WORK.
And yes, this surprised me. It really did, once I got serious and decided that I wanted to see my name in print. I didn't find it hard as a kid, writing bad poetry that my teachers peppered with little gold stars. I didn't find it hard in high school, where I had copious amounts of angst to fuel my inspiration. Writing got hard once I grew up. Once I started thinking about publishing. Once I realized I'd have to make sacrifices for it (like time, money, energy).
I'm not one of those writers who gets a ton of ideas. I envy my writer friends, some of whom carry around notebooks because they so get so many ideas for stories, they can't possibly keep track of them if they're not written down. Stephen King once said that he's happy if he's three story ideas ahead.
THREE ideas ahead? Guys, I'm thrilled if I have ONE idea RIGHT NOW. Seriously, I'm lucky if I get one decent idea a year. Maybe I'm not a very inspired person, but ideas don't magically appear to me. I don't have a muse. I don't write as if possessed by a higher power. I have to think up an idea, start writing it, and hope like hell it turns into something worth reading. Most of the time, it doesn't.
What I do have going for me is that I'm stubborn and I'm task-oriented. I know that when an idea starts to take shape, I'd better milk it for all its worth, because unlike buses, trains, and fish in the sea, there really isn't more where that came from. And this is where the perspiration part comes in. I've written 75,000 words for my current work-in-progress and I started in mid-August. Not too shabby, right? But what you don't know is that I started this book three times before over a period of eight months. And all three times, it fizzled around 25,000 words. That's a lot of writing that went nowhere. I wish I could say it was okay and that those three attempts paved the way for this draft to take off, but I don't think so. Sometimes wasted words are just wasted words.
What about you? What's your percentage? 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration? 50/50? 100% one way or the other?