A lot of people think that writing is sitting down at the computer (or maybe type writer, or maybe with a notebook and pen) and just putting down words. It has to be easy. I mean, how hard could it be to just put words down, right?
Oh if only…
When people read a book, they take in the scenery described, the scents, the sounds, the conversations, it’s often like a movie in their head. But when you are on the other side, you have to think of every single word, every conversation (yay, you get to talk to yourself without anyone thinking you’re crazy!), every move they make, every relevant facial expression, every bit of scenery so the reader can build that movie in their head.
There are times the author sits down to write and realizes they need a twisty, obscure riddle of a warning for the characters to work their way through. It will take only seconds for the reader to read those words. It took hours, sometimes days for the author to figure out just the right way to say it.
There are times when the writing pauses because the author must research something in order to make sure they have it right. This can take days. Days where no story is written, only piles of notes that must be taken so the one time they mention the something, it is correct. Add into that the inevitable distraction of the internet where one starts out researching mythical creatures, or the complications of moving around in space, and somehow ends up awake at three in the morning five days later researching the feeding and breeding habits of the dung beetle because one site led to this site and oh that was interesting which led to clicking on that…
Then there are the days where the author knows what needs to be written but for whatever reason their brain has dumped all files on writing and they stare at the screen as their brain flounders around saying, “Wut r werdz?” But they write anyway, because damn it, they don’t want to waste a perfectly good day (this often happens on the one day they will have hours of uninterrupted time on their hands) all the while knowing they will have to delete most of it because it will come out as a bunch of stilted drivel because their brain forgot how to make words.
Or, the brain knows exactly how to make words, is excited to make words, but what needs to be written just won’t unfold right. Again, half of what is written during this time will be deleted, or revised.
And then there are the times the characters ignore the author, the story jumps the track the author had planned for it and suddenly said author is in scrambling to figure out what happened and how to make it work because though it jumped the planned track, the track it chose is so much better.
And then, there are the days when everything lines up and the story pours out with ease and the fingers fly. This doesn’t mean there is no time involved. During these times the writing will be especially rough because the author is too busy trying to keep up with their brain to make sure everything is perfect. Which means a lot of fixing later, but so worth it.
So the next time you read a book and find lines you love, descriptions of scenery that transport you there, or riddles that have your brain working to figure it out along side the characters, remember the line, the paragraph, the page that took you a few seconds to read, might have taken hours or days for the author to write. And that was just the rough draft. Never mind all of the revisions those words underwent after the initial writing.
It’s like a lot of other art. It takes three or so minutes to listen to a song. It took a lot longer to compose it, learn it, practice it, and record it. One hour of an audio book took on average four hours to make. The sculpture or painting you admire for twenty minutes or so took the artist hours, days, or more to create. Even the food you eat at a restaurant has had hours of prep work done so that you don’t have to wait long to get it. Movies take two hours to watch and months to make.
When the band you love hasn’t released a new song and you are getting impatient, when you are chomping at the bit for the next book, the next movie, the next painting, know that it is coming and while you are cursing their slowness the artists are likely losing sleep and tearing their hair out over a single line or paragraph in order to give you the best experience they can.