Back when I was doing the working vacation thing at Archers Beach, I took a lot of walks. I left footprints on every street in town during that month — which was great. I like to walk.
One evening, I was taking a shortish walk* and I met, as I so often did, a fellow traveler. This one was different than most of the others I met, out walking. Not only was she not accompanied by a faithful canine companion, but she didn’t really seem to be enjoying herself. In fact, she seemed Absolutely Miserable.
We passed each other as I was going out, smiled and nodded at each other, as one does, and continued on our separate routes.
We met again as I was on my way back, and this time, she spoke.
“You, too?” she asked. “How much do you have to walk?”
I said I was walking between two and five miles a day, depending.
She was horrified. “They’re making you walk five miles?”
Well, no, I said, nobody was making me walk five miles. I enjoy walking.
“I don’t,” she said sadly. “And my doctor says I have to walk, every day, because I’m pre-diabetic and I need to walk miles. How far is five miles?”
From where we stood to the Seacliff and back, I said — that’s about five miles — but really, couldn’t she just could check her pedometer and find out how far she’d walked?
She didn’t have a pedometer; had never heard of such a thing. She’d didn’t know where the Seacliff was, either.
So, there she was, poor soul, plodding along, utterly miserable, equipped with neither a pedometer nor a sense of adventure, feeling ill-used and forced to perform this painful, pointless action. It was very sad.
I explained about pedometers, told her that it was an instrument of hope, and said that walking would get easier, really, the more she did it. I didn’t say that she would come to enjoy it, though I hoped she would, if she kept at it. It’s really hard, though, to keep on doing something that makes you so completely unhappy.
. . .which brings me to writing.
A little while back, I happened to observe a young writer (by which I mean someone who is just beginning their career), mock a piece of Sage Writing Advice. In particular, they were taking issue with the notion that, should a project start dragging its feet, one might benefit from putting it aside, and doing something else.
If I stopped writing every time it got hard, sayeth young writer, I’d never get anything written. People who just walk away from their projects aren’t serious about being writers. You have to just push through and write, no matter how hard it is, or how much you hate it. Writing is hard, and anybody who expects otherwise is a poseur.
To which I say, um, No; not exactly.
First of all, the advice to put a balky project aside is based on the understanding that, often, a project stalls because you, the writer, made a misstep. If you keep bulling through, no matter what, you may find, days later, that you need to strip out and rewrite six chapters in order to correct the error. Or you may get to the end of the project, and realize that you need to deconstruct half the book.
Taking a day or two off to give the backbrain some time to figure out what the problem is, is cheap, compared to pushing through, no matter what.
This is not at all the same as “walking away every time the writing gets hard.” It is instead, an understanding of process, and a productivity tool.
Now, about that writing is hard business.
Yes. Yes, writing is hard.
But it’s not always hard. It’s often rather easy, and pleasurable, too. In fact, I expect to enjoy myself when I’m working. That’s one of the things that makes writing desirable as a career — for me, at least. If I want to be miserable in my work, I can go back to being a secretary.
See, unlike my unhappy strolling friend, no one is making anyone be a writer. If you’re miserable in the work; if you believe joy will come from eventual, future accolades and rewards — I would strongly advise you to find other work. Work that gives you joy in the doing. Work that is worthy of both your care and your time.
In essence, if writing doesn’t satisfy you on a level that nothing else can reach — you’re doing it wrong.
. . .I really hope that woman got a pedometer, and that she walked down to the Seacliff, to find out for herself how far it is from Wavelet Street. I hope she discovered excitement and pleasure in walking.
Because life’s too short, yanno?
*East Grand toward the Scarborough line, cut up the drive at Little Miss Cottages to Wavelet Street, follow Wavelet ’til it dead-ends at the Sunspray, turn left down the alley to East Grand again, left again and so to home