Tuesday 20 February 2018

Forget all you've read -- writing isn't hard

Asked on his deathbed to comment on his final predicament, a famous actor said "Dying's easy," before adding "but comedy's hard".

Creative writing is hard, too, if you're to believe all those solemn authors who, when interviewed, make a point of telling the world how mentally and physically draining it is to sit in a room and put words on to a page. So it's cheering that American novelist Richard Ford finds it difficult to think that what he does could actually be called work.

Writing in the Guardian, the author of The Sportswriter and Independence Day argues that the term "work" signifies something hard and that, in his estimation, "hard is staring into one of those mind-corroding X-ray machines at La Guardia, or taking tolls on the Jersey turnpike".

Writing, by contrast, is not only "easier than almost any occupation I know, but you also run your own operation". And if it usually doesn't gain you a fortune, "I associate making a lot of money with jobs that are so tedious (and hard) that only big money would make you do it".

So no tormented soul-searching for Ford? No wrestling with demons in the early hours? Seemingly not -- merely very fine novels from one of the best living prose writers.


Crime fiction master Elmore Leonard is similarly matter-of-fact when discussing his craft, as anyone who's read his 10 Rules for Writing will know (Among the rules are: "Never open a book with weather", "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue" and "Try to leave out the parts that readers skip").

He's pragmatic about life, too, as his son Peter (also a novelist) recalled in last weekend's Daily Telegraph. Observing his father's second wife precariously cleaning the gutters of their Detroit house, Peter said "Hey, Dad, how come Joan's on the roof?" To which his father replied: "Because she can't write books."

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