I recently stole away for a quick writing retreat with my friend, Melissa Earley. We sat across from each other at her dining room table typing away on our matching MacBook Pros. It was great accountability because I knew Melissa could see me every time I distracted myself by checking my email on my smartphone. About thirty minutes into our first hour of writing, the following dialogue occurred:
Teri, loudly, face in hands: “Ugh. Writing is so hard!”
Melissa, immediate, straight-shooter: “No it’s not. Don’t you remember. You posted that article to Facebook a while back that said writing is not hard.”
Teri, defiant: “What? No I did not. I don’t remember that.”
Melissa-who-knows-better: “Here. I’ll find it and read it to you. It was really good.”
“Writing is not hard work. Let me tell you what hard work is: bending over in a field of low-bush, wild blueberries, your back arced so you can slide a forty-tooth rake like fingers under the bushes and pull back, settling the berries and tiny green leaves into the rake, then dumping them into a five-gallon bucket at your side, only to lug the bucket three hundred yards to the sorting machine where you lift it onto a wooden trailer and the man stamps a star-shaped hole in the card you keep in your back pocket, the card already soaked through with sweat and eight more hours to go, the sun like hot coals on the back of your neck, your shirt already tossed on the ground beside the gallon of water you froze the night before, the only thing that will keep you going through the wasp-riddled, poison-ivy laced field.”
Teri, chagrined: “Damn. You’re right. I did post that.”
Melissa, gloating, keeps reading:
“Writing is not hard work. I’m talking about writing, not Facebooking, workshopping, copyediting, tweeting, submitting or, my least favorite activity, writing cover letters, but writing, that essential listening, that patience with words, hearing the voices come, seeing a scene come to life in front of your eyes, sitting at a computer until the computer falls away like the page of a good book falls away, until the screen becomes clear like the surface of a pond after rain so that someone looking into the water can see the rotting logs and Budweiser cans on the bottom and the fish swimming around. The act of creation has nothing to do with hard work. Writing is, to me, a beautiful, liberating process that feels unlike any work I have ever done in my life.”
Teri, humbled: “Yeah. This isn’t really hard. It’s not like I’m out picking blueberries in a field all day. Certainly puts things in perspective.”
Melissa, smug, returns to her typing.
Teri, distracted, checks her email.
**Read the full article “Writing is not Hard Work” by Mike Minchin.
[Feature Image: Brendan DeBrincat]