My wife is reading Neil Gaiman’s “Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions.” As she was doing so this past weekend she read the following out loud, knowing that it would make me smile:
“People talk about books that write themselves, and it’s a lie. Books don’t write themselves. It takes thought and research and backache and notes and more time and more work than you’d believe.”
In some sense, this is a good thing. Writing that is worth reading often seems effortless, but it can be a double-edged sword. When a consumer reads something that looks “easy” to create, they then expect the writer to churn out content as if it were rumbling down an automotive assembly line. It doesn’t work that way.
Readers of this blog know that I’ve been chipping away at my own book for perhaps eight months whenever time permits. If one were to liken writing a book to building a house, then I would say that I successfully laid the foundation and then realized that I wasn’t a very good plumber. Do I build a house with crappy plumbing and hope to sell it to people who aren’t too concerned about water pressure, or do I take the time to learn how to lay pipes?
For my own book, there is a character who is a former Army Special Forces team member. I found myself saying during the writing process, “Okay, I have infantry friends who have been deployed overseas, but wouldn’t it be better to actually talk to some guys who are Special Forces operators?” I’m now in the process of taking care of that task. That sort of thing takes time, which is something that friends and family and coworkers are usually in the dark about.
Likewise, all of my characters are men of faith (to different degrees). Months ago I found myself saying, “Wow, this is really hard because I’m not nearly as well-versed in my own faith as I thought I was!” What followed was three months of devouring the best and brightest work put forth by religious men that I could get my hands on. Again, that takes time (especially with a full-time job and a blog to keep fresh), but how do you explain that to friends who ask, “How is the book coming along?”
The answer: you don’t.
Unless you’re talking with fellow writers about the creative process, then I would suggest not discussing your book with friends and family and instead concentrating on writing in isolation. If you are a blogger, then I would also suggest refraining from talking about your book unless you plan to have open and honest discussions about the writing process.
Personally, I feel as though I would be done with my own project by now if I could tear myself away from this blog for more than a few days at a time, but my readers are like the mob — every time I think I’m out, you guys pull me back in!
If you’re a writing a book of any kind, then feel free to let me know what you do to stay focused. Or, if you have a question you think I might be able to help you with, then ask away. I’d be happy to give it my best shot in the comments section below.