Writing is wretchedness layered with joys.
A writer–call her Emily Austin–is restless. She has books to read, a garden to work, friends to visit, perhaps a family to love, perhaps an office to run. Still, she is edgy, uncomfortable, vaguely unhappy. Her fingers itch. She looks at incompatible things and people, then sits very still and thinks about them. She turns things over in her mind as if they were shards found in a shovelful of rich earth, and she wonders if they could possibly fit together.
Joy #1 – An idea sparks and a story begins.
Emily has biographies for her characters, a plot outline or at least a notion of one, a setting, an atmosphere, a theme. She writes a scene, reads it aloud, scraps it, rewrites it from another point of view, takes long walks, plays solitaire, free-writes, writes the scene again. She writes another. Advancing the story is like pushing a log uphill longways, like smithing cold steel with a tack hammer.
Joy #2 – It all falls together and starts working like live yeast in good dough.
It’s time for the loose ends to be tied up or left artistically dangling, and Emily doesn’t know how it’s all going to end. Her characters and situation are perhaps too realistic: the logical possibilities are incalculable. What selected combination would be most satisfying without being too predictable? What would be most surprising without being a betrayal?
Joy #3 – The best, the truest, the inevitable wrap-up reveals itself.
The story is finished, critiqued, revised, typed, submitted. Over. Accepted or rejected, read and loved and acclaimed or filed for a future rewrite, the story is what it is, a living entity or a dead weight.
Joy #4 – … A writer–call her Emily Austin–is restless.
Yes, the wretchedness is the joy, the painful slog is the delight. What on earth feels better than hard work well done, or free play at full tilt? What on earth is so delirious, so delicious, as not being able to tell the difference?