Writing is a Job

In a recent Washington Post article, Ann Patchett made a New Year’s resolution. She discovered a “radical concept — time spent working equals output of work.” It dawned on her that writing is a job and therefore not to be taken lightly. You mean… it’s not something that I squeeze in between jaunts to the supermarket, dry cleaners, hair salon, and doctor’s appointments? Not to mention laundry, scouring the oven, and cleaning toilets?? All of which I do to avoid sitting down at the computer and facing my Inner Editor, by the way.

It’s not that I’m actually afraid of my Inner Saboteur (who, when my writing instructor asked the class to put a face and name to it, turned out to be an annoying Leprechaun, utterly devoid of the power and magnificence of The Great and Powerful Oz).

The fact is…I buy into pretty much everything he has to say. And it turns out that I’m not the only writer who does.

According to Ann Patchett (who, incidentally, is the author of five novels, including Bel Canto (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize),

“Writing is an endless confrontation with my own lack of talent and
intelligence, because if I were as smart and talented as I ought to be, I would
have finished this book by now. I would consider avoiding work the better plan
were it not for the fact that to have written a book, to have finished it, is
such a glorious thing that it is worth whatever suffering is meted out in the

The trick, I think, is to see the Inner Editor for who he (or she) truly is: the man behind the curtain, whose sole purpose in life is to keep us safe – protected from even a glancing blow of failure.

Once I managed to see his true colours, I took great delight in throwing back the curtain, and showing him the door. Not that he doesn’t skulk into my office whenever he can get the chance. But, he’s an intruder, and ever since the day I stood up to him and stripped him of his title of General Know-It-All, I was ready to accept a new voice into my creative hub room. A voice that gently guides me through the miasma of creating something even vaguely readable.

So, who knows? Maybe, now that I have a new boss, and I take the time each day to actually work on this novel that’s been taking up every square inch of space in my brain for the past two years – actually see it as a job – the results won’t be half bad. Or, as Ann Patchett said, it “may well be brilliant. Now there’s a beautiful thought.”


LizAnn said...

Hi Maureen,
I am so glad you came and commented on my blog because now I know about yours. You are such an eloquent writer. Thanks for this motivational post.
We have something in common. I was being held back by my Inner Saboteur until the last few months when I started and joined Fear Anonymous. It's interesting that I read your post today because I could feel fear creaping back this week and your post reminded me to not let it in!
THANKS! I am now one of your blog followers and I cannot wait to read more of your posts.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you for your kinds words, LizAnn! And I am so glad that you found this post motivational. I often find that when fear starts to creep back in, I'll stumble across a blog post that gets me back on track. I'm thankful that there are bloggers, such as yourself, who take the time to leave a supportive comment. Thanks, also, for following my blog!

Coupon Clippin' Mommy said...

I love the picture :) New follower from MBC FFF.

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