So along with teaching four classes (a very heavy load for a college professor), I have to write. And writing is work. To those who think it's easy to write a book, I suggest they try it. To those who can churn out a book a year, I applaud them (and wonder how they do it). Writing is hard work. And it's not fun.
A friend and fellow academic author put it this way in an email:
There are days in writing (for me usually when I have a decent draft of something and am crafting) that it flows, but most of the time it's work, work, work, work.Now I've never had a baby, but I only wish writing was such a passive process that got pushed out after nine months (not to mention the fun that leads to babies in the first place).
People who don't understand writing or who use formulas or hire ghostwriters who use formulas think that a book is like having a baby, nine months and it's done. such total utter bullshit.
I've been working on this book for a while and I'm still not done. When writing, I can produce about 1,500 words a night. But that's only some nights. Because I'm not productive most nights, my actually production is more like 100 words a night. And that's just the first draft.
Now that I have a (rough) first draft of my book, it's more work. Even after getting all the words on paper--and at 30,000 words it's a very short book--it's still a lot of slow painful work. Just to give you some idea of the editing process, here are a two pages of a draft of my forthcoming book, In Defense of Flogging.
So why do I do it? Sometimes I wonder. Every other job I've had has been easier, and yet still I choose this vocation. What did I create as a cop? Hopefully I helped some people, but Baltimore is no worse off without me there. And as a waiter I helped rich people enjoy their dinner, but waiters are just supporting cast to the food. And when I was a boat captain in Amsterdam I learned about boats and made a lot of tourists very happy. That was fun. But at some point I got tired of the same old tourist conversations (and rainy weather).
The work in those jobs created no lasting product. And none of it could be mistaken for art. Maybe I write because I can't draw and don't make sculpture. A book is, or at least should be, a little piece of art. Maybe I like that idea. I really don't know.
On any objective level, 99 percent of all writers don't get enough credit or money to make it all worthwhile, but still people write. I guess there's something satisfying about creating something from nothing, at least when you're done with it all.
But while doing it? Man, there's very little I wouldn't prefer to do than write. When I'm sitting at my computer at 4AM, sometimes I think about how nice it would be to have some other job where I could show up, do my job, and go home and watch TV guilt free.
And yet I wouldn't change my job for any other (except major league baseball player and Supreme Court Justice). Why is that?
Perhaps writing involves a deeper calling. I'd like to think I'm doing something that will last and might actually (in some small way) change the world for the better. And though the craft of writing is a tough, I'd like to think I'm good at it. Plus, publishing is, in theory, part of my job.
It's great to have written. Too bad it's not more fun to write.
Look for my new book, In Defense of Flogging, to be published by Basic Books, in 2011.