Not long ago, I heard someone say that the only people who like to cross country ski are people who love the daily grind. These are people who understand what it takes to get up early, work hard, take on underwhelming projects, and push through when it would be easier to take a break. I loved the idea, partially because I love to cross country ski and partially because it reminded me of why I love to write.
I have run across so many writers, and they’re each such wonderfully unique people. Some write for a short period of time, and some stick with it for life. I have met writers who scribbled a handful of letters to pass on to their grandkids and felt totally satisfied, and I have known others who struggled with never-ending novel series that took years to complete.
What I have observed about writers generally is that they like to work hard. They like to dig into a complicated story, a wild poem, or a new idea and wrestle with the words until something new emerges from the page. They like to get their hands dirty and don’t really mind struggling with a character that starts out cardboard flat and ends up walking and talking with as much complexity as the eccentric guy down the street.
Writers love to get out into the world. Yes, ours is a solitary hobby. We sit by ourselves, tapping away at the keys alone, and oftentimes use devices to block out the noise of life happening around us. But writers must delve into the truths of life to be able to write about them. Writers listen to conversations, they watch the way people move, and they taste the subtle differences in dishes. All these observations are deep dives into life, which writers do so that they can capture life experiences to put into stories.
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Writers tend to think about writing all the time. They read more books because they are involved in learning on an ongoing basis. They tend to have a high interest level in a variety of topics. Who else would want to know when to plant roses, how long a body takes to decompose in the desert, and the physicality it takes to ride a bicycle from Seattle to Portland? These are normal questions for writers to ponder and research. In fact, sometimes a writer will research a question for hours just to write a single line in a story.
Writers think about writing all the time. Many carry a writer’s notebook to capture ideas that come to mind in the middle of the day. Writers will say things like, “That would make a great story” when they hear a weird statistic or curious scenario. Writers dwell on which comeback they would have used two hours after being shouted at by a rude jerk. And they analyze movies for choices the writers made, rather than which explosions were biggest.
The wonderful thing about writers is that they can see the depth of life. They can identify its smells and tastes and textures, because they seek out its stories. To be able to understand life so well that we can write about abandonment, desperation, ecstasy, and triumph means that we not only don’t mind getting close to life but we relish it.
The writing process can feel overwhelming to some, but most writers have the keen ability to turn coffee into words, which gives us an advantage to take on enormous projects, like 9-volume book series.
Gardeners, can work in the garden once a week for an hour or two and end up with a beautiful garden that the neighbors admire. Writers have to keep coming back to the page over and over again. An hour here or there will result in a completed story, but it will take ages, and no one will see the positive results until the words are arranged in their polished final version.
It’s hard work that makes that happen. It’s having the drive to come back to the desk over and over again. It’s having the courage to open up the story and try again and again to edit the scenes to make them flow better.
Writers read, research, write, and revise in an ongoing cycle, because once one story is completed, most writers take up another one. To keep up with that kind of hobby, a person has to love to work and they have to find their flow when they dig into the process.
Writers are like that. We may take time away from the writing to handle life’s complications when they arise, but we are consistently hard workers. We put in the work, knowing the reward will come.
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