Friday, April 1, 2011
EATING AN ELEPHANT
If you’ve publicly declared yourself a writer, you might have experienced a conversation with someone where they’ve confessed to you they a) want to write a book but haven’t because it takes a lot of time, b) want you to take their “best-selling” idea and write it because they haven’t the time, or c) both. I claim c.
Every time someone brings this discussion up, I try to sound supportive and listen. They don’t understand (yet!) what a daunting task writing a book is. It takes time—they get it—but they don’t realize how much until they actually write it. Then rewrite it. Then rewrite it again. It takes soooo much time. And blood. Sweat. (You guessed, it: tears too.)
I love writing. Writing has a reward in and of itself; it’s therapeutic to many of us. But to write a book-length work takes a deep commitment. It would be like eating an elephant*. Every page is a bite of tough, old meat chewed one morsel at time. You would have to make most of the meat into jerky just to make it last until you can get around to swallowing it! You can’t tackle it all at once. In the last few months I’ve started a few huge, new tasks. Two of those being revising a hot mess of a draft and another would be writing a very research-intensive new book. When I start getting overwhelmed, I calm my breathing and ask myself, “How do I eat an elephant?” And then myself answers in a not-so-chipper voice, “One bite at a time.” I grumble that it’s taking so long. But often the admission that is does take one bite at a time helps. (And I’m telling you this in hopes that it helps you too. Because it is hard to stick with it and I know it!)
So to all of you starting, finishing, revising, or thinking about writing a book or two, here is my advice: start with one mouthful at a time and work your way in. It’s too easy to overwhelm yourself, but anything worth doing is worth your best effort. (Not your best writing, mind you, but your best focus of energy.)
YOU CAN DO IT!
Finishing up my author interview series, Kate Scott is the winner of Prisoners in the Palace. Congrats, Kate! Please email me (@ jackeeDOTalstonATgmailDOTcom) your snail mail address and I’ll get the book sent out to you. Thanks to all those who commented and participated!
* Even though I compare it to eating an elephant, in Shel Silverstein’s poem, Melinda Mae, the girl thought she could eat a whale, said she could and then “started right at the tail”. She ignored the nay-sayers and in eighty-nine years, she ate the whole whale because she said she would. You choose the animal you like best for the analogy, but I’ve no physical concept of how big a right or blue or humpback whale is, so I’ll stick with an elephant. :o)