Friday, February 5, 2016

An Easy Job

“It was a hell of a night to throw out a baby.” 

You’re hooked, aren’t you? An intriguing opening line, isn’t it?  I wish I had written it.

Someone recently told me that it must be nice to have an “easy” job.  I was startled.  As Ernest Hemmingway said, “There is nothing to writing.  You just sit at the typewriter and bleed.”  Writing is not for the faint-hearted.  It requires patience when writer’s block rears its ugly head, fortitude in the face of rejections, stamina when the writing is going well and you just “have to” continue, and serenity about your ability to bring all that’s swirling around in your head into a cohesive, dynamic story which readers will want to read.

Voltaire, that paragon of philosophy, said, “Writing is the painting of the voice.”  Exactly how does one paint a voice?  A voice is not seen.  It is heard.  And hearing isn’t always accurate.  Remember the first time you heard your voice on someone’s voice mail and were surprised because it didn’t sound like what you hear when you speak?  The speaking voice is sound waves and tone and words and emotion.  A writing voice is all that and more.  When someone paints a picture, they are trying to capture something real and alive, in existence and multi-dimensional, on several levels, onto a medium which is, well, flat, in all the many senses of the word.  When writers write, they are putting into words experiences which are not only myriad but reflective of chosen perspectives and which asks the readers to determine for themselves the accuracy.

To transport a reader into a time and space and setting and story which is not their own but which becomes their reality for that moment – that necessitates hard work.  To engage the reader at the onset and then keep them intrigued throughout – that demands hard work.  The work of both artists and writers requires genius.  And that is not easy.

“It was a hell of a night to throw out a baby,” is how Julia Spencer-Fleming begins her book, In the Bleak Midwinter.  Maybe the muses simply smiled upon her, but more likely days, months, years of continued writing, crumpled papers, deleted lines, revised scenes, moments of inspiration, times of despair led to that genius line.  Is writing easy?  Not by a long shot.  Writing requires the sweating of blood, and if you can’t handle that, find an easier vocation, like being a doctor. 
Paula Castner is a wife, mother of three, and a co-founder of Seven Bridge Writers' Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, playwright, writing and baking workshop facilitator, and drama director. She receives emails at

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