Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Writing is Hard Work!

My daughter used to tell her friends that I didn't work. I just "stayed at home and wrote things". Then she got to spend the day job shadowing me a few years ago. She got to miss the whole day of school without it being counted against her, and in return spent the day working with me. She thought this would be a piece of cake. After all, "Mom's only a writer."

At the time I was working for a big company, doing short biographies of some well-known musical artists. Including a few rock stars that my daughter thought were just great. (Smile) I was also working out the plot and characters for a new romance novel. It all sounded like great fun to her--and nothing like work.

We started the day off by sending in a new list of names to my editor for approval. This is a list of artists that I'd like to write bios on. The editor would later give me an approval for the names she wanted me to go with. We then sent off a few interview questions by e-mail. Got a few answers in from some I had already sent off, and then got down to writing bios. That meant sitting right in front of the computer until lunch time, simply looking over notes, double checking facts, and writing, and rewriting, and rewriting. (Oh, it distressed my young daughter even more to discover that ** gasp ** grammar and spelling had to be correct. And worse, my editor wanted things done in a certain way and style.)

It only took about an hour of this for the joyful sparkle to fade from my daughter's beautiful hazel eyes. She was more than ready for a break when noon came around. I didn't even know that child could eat as slowly as she did that day, especially on a day when she didn't have to be in school. (Smile)

After lunch she helped me finish up another bio and start the next. About halfway through that one, she begged for mercy, asking couldn't we please work on my story instead.

I gave in. Of course I soon found that plotting and doing character charts were no more fun to her than writing bios had been. I think she was more happy to see three o'clock--her quitting time for the day--come around than she would have been if she were sitting in class waiting for the school bell to ring.

That evening she had to write a paper for her teacher, explaining what I did and what she learned about me and my job from the time she had spent with me that one day. The one part of that paper that sticks in my mind even now is--Writing is hard work! It seems a lot of people don't know that. I think even most writers don't start out knowing that, and don't figure it out to somewhere after chapter three of the first novel they try to write. So I'm really glad that at least my daughter finally got it. Even if maybe she wouldn't remember it later.

Fast forward to fall 2004. I was busy doing a little free writing with pen and paper when my daughter came through the living room with one of her friends yesterday evening. I didn't think to look up or nod. I was kind of lost in my words. But I did hear my daughter's voice though, when she told her friend, "Looks like Mom's still hard at work. Let's watch the movie in my room." I glanced up in time to see them walk away. I forgot about my words for a moment, and smiled, remembering a day gone by and a chance to bond and understand that all happened on one single school day when there was no school.

2 comments:

Jeannie said...

What a wonderful story. And how true it is...I think often people underestimate what it means to be a writer. My husband has finally figured out that those lengthy moments I'm staring off into space are when I'm likely trying to connect a plot, figure out a character or some other writing-oriented thought pattern. He no longer assumes I'm thinking about shopping for shoes. :)

Charlotte Dillon said...

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who has those moments of staring off into nothing. (Smile) Thanks for your comment, Jeannie!