If you’ve been following and reading my blog for a while now, let me first say a big Thank You!
Cos, make no mistake, writing IS hard work. So having an audience really affirms my efforts! Here’s hoping as long as I keep at it and keep posting, you’ll keep reading and (maybe) keep helping me spread the word.
Of writing woes and whys
But let’s start with the good stuff first.
For me, writing is often a great way to unload its woes (and which writer hasn’t got them?!), and to reach an empathetic, even enthralled audience (and which writer doesn’t want them?!).
Even if the audience is me, myself and I, that’s fine. After all, the ‘me’ ten to twenty years from now, might view, say this post, quite differently compared to the ‘I’ right now, right this moment.
The promise of seeing something old anew is itself a sufficient lure for any writer to keep writing.
For an introvert like me, writing’s like seeking the exit to a maze all by my lonesome self. But first, I must stumble and fumble like a lunatic through the maze’s endless twists and turns, before finding the way out. And by extension, an end to entrapment and the beginning of enlightenment – the ultimate elixir!
Similar to unravelling the wicked knots of a piece of complicated cross-stitch embroidery. And in so doing, untangling the whys and wherefores of life, with its many wonders, whatnots and what-have-yous.
Or, picking yet another metaphor, hunting down a beautiful but elusive jungle beast.
Long long ago, on a little island
Tales of my country’s naming included this famous legend of a Palembang prince Sang Nila Utama (from the Srivijaya Empire) who came to our island state in the 1200s. While exploring, he chanced upon what he believed was that majestic king of all animals, the lion. Since “singa” was the word for lions in his native tongue, he decided to name this island Singa-pura, or what we now call in modern times, Singapore.
Ok ok, I see what you’re about to do.
This detour isn’t me meandering into a history lesson. So rest easy, ok? Better writers have taken a stab at it than me, so I won’t even go there.
It’s just when I think of that first sighting, I can understand how Prince Utama must have felt. I can imagine if I were there how awed I would feel gazing at such a noble beast.
Even now whenever we visit the zoo (pre Covid days), I still get goosebumps looking at how stately a creature the lion is. I mean, only The Grand Designer Himself could have thought of including that glorious mane to frame that proud, resplendent face.
No mere mortal mind could ever conjure up so magnificent a masterpiece.
Metaphor detour done.
Back to my point today, which is….
…Writing Is HARD WORK!
Yes, I’ll say it again: Writing. Is. Hard. Work.
The thing is, many people (mainly non-readers) don’t think so. Or they think it’s frivolous and a waste of time, in an age of WhatsApp and SMS.
But that’s not even the worst of it.
The people that really tick me off are those purported “writers” (some are even successfully published) who toot their own horns and claim that writing’s as easy as ABC. Just string a few unconnected pieces into chapters and voila, you got a bestselling book! (These are likely the same people who think that most videos and posts that go viral are happenstances!)
Don’t even get me started on those who run courses with such impertinent titles as “How to improve your writing in 15 steps.”
These horrid folks perpetuate the false illusion that writing is all about grasping a formula or getting into a flow. So long as the writing “flows”, there’s no (writer’s) block. So if you feel blocked, then you’re not in the flow, and so maybe writing’s not your “thang”.
These arrogant folks are the black sheep of the writer’s fold. The truth is far from what they assert.
Writing is a labour of love. But you see, the labour comes BEFORE the love.
True writers everywhere struggle with their writing all the time, and feeling defeat often is inevitable. Why, this post alone took me several hours of writing and rewriting, with moments of intense exasperation to boot!
So let no one tell me writing’s a breeze!
Then why do it you ask?
When writing becomes air
“But if you accept that writing is hard work, and that’s what it feels like while you’re writing, then everything is just as it should be. Your labor isn’t a sign of defeat. It’s a sign of engagement. The difference is all in your mind, but what a difference.“
This really opened up a whole new perspective for me as I plod painfully through many of my pieces. To see these agonising moments as moments of engagement, rather than defeat, lifts up my spirit and makes me feel light as air again.
And that is why I write
For to touch even just an instant that sense of euphoria a writer feels. When a piece finally comes together after days of write-rewrite-rinse-repeat, makes all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.
Even if I’m the only audience.
Self-indulgent? Perhaps. Narcisstic? Maybe.
Pastor, essayist and author of 18 books Ryan J. Pelton wrote:
“…the writing craft is never about the writing. It’s about guts and souls and pains. Who we are, where we’ve been, what we feel, and how we believe the world should be. And how we see inconsistencies in all of it.”
Pelton even quoted no less a doyen of writing than the incomparable Stephen King himself, who once said about his bestselling psycho-thriller “Misery”:
“Misery is a book about cocaine. Annie Wilkes is cocaine. She was my number-one fan.”
If all of the world can only see writing as purely self-indulgent and narcissistic, then the world doesn’t understand that writing is and will always be hard work. And which self-centred, narcissistic person you know covets hard work?
But, just like air, writing is indispensable to the very breath and life of a writer.
And if it’s hard work, it’s my hard work, and it’s totally engaging, and totally worth it.
So my cri de coeur to myself must always be: