Devotion, or Loving a project

Devotion tends to get short shrift these days. It could be a byproduct of the mentality that our current economic system of favoring (well, sanctifying) consumerism has bred into us, where everything is easily disposable and even more easily replaced, or it could be a byproduct of our ever-shortening attention spans, where even the daily news comes in nuggets and the analysis in bites. Or it could be both, or something in between, or that and more; whatever is the source the zeitgeist seems to be “If it’s too hard, why bother?” Yet most things worth doing are hard, and most efforts worth making do – in some manner, in some time, to some degree – pay dividends. A friend of mine likes to say that energy expended, something really worked for, will certainly yield results, though just when is anyone’s guess. Push on a boulder hard enough for long enough and it will move. Sisyphus might disagree, or he might grimace and nod, but there you have it.

Writing a book is one of the most absolutely grueling enterprises a human being can undertake. It is also surely one of the least rewarding. Add to that the fact that it is one of the most time-consuming, if not the most time-consuming, of artistic endeavors and it’s a wonder that anyone does it at all. Yet by all accounts the writing of books is currently undergoing what might well be an unprecedented boom. Never mind that every former celebrity, ex-politician, ex-ceo, ex-fifteen minute, or ex-con, seeks to cash in on what was through the penning of a memoir and/or cautionary-advisory tale, we now also have such surprising phenomena as fan fiction writers and – yes – bloggers, any one of whom might get it into their heads to begin a book-length project. Such an undertaking is naturally a very worthy one, and to be applauded, but surely not to be entered into lightly.

A book is a child that gives none of the joys of parenting. There are no moments when you gaze at the words in your word processing document and smile sweetly, subtly, and with a pure and genuinely expressed love in your heart. There are glimpses of satisfaction, of course, we all know that, but there are no times when the singular bliss of being strikes you. Instead there is always a voice of critique, a voice of doubt, a voice of severity, and above all a voice of dread. “Did I really write that?” “How could I have missed that error/word choice/typo/poor phrasing/etc.?” “Oh my goodness…” Why anyone would do this to themselves has been considered many times on the pages of this website and the answer we seem to keep running into is simply because we must. Writers are born, it is a genetic deformity that finds expression – virus like – regardless of the contextual circumstances of its host. If you have it in you it comes out; and that’s probably one reason we also read in the way we do.

What, then, is to be done about this nasty business? In the end, I think, a book requires, a book demands, bullheadedness. Goals and targets are (or can be) helpful, but what will really see us through is simple stubbornness. Discipline. Iron will. The firm belief that this is a book worth writing, this is a story worth being told, this is an object that must be placed into the world. We will get nothing but years of trouble for the production of it, and the act will probably likewise take years off our lives, but we will do it, we will see the thing through, and once we have placed that first draft copy on our shelves to gather its dust and smirk at us we will be able to grimace back and push again on that boulder, once more up that steep hill, once more expecting that roll back. Unrequited love for a project is the stuff a writer is made of.

And a reminder that here’s one chance to requite ;-)¬† – the freebie week at Smashwords is going on now!

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