Depending on who you ask, writing might be either a delightful lark or an exhausting, depleting trial-by-fire.
And in honor of Labor Day, it’s a great question to consider: is writing work?
On one hand, yes. Of course it is. Any creative pursuit involves opening up your heart and mind and veins to produce something you love, which is harder than, say, tallying up some figures or answering phones or doing other, less fraught tasks to pay the bills.
On the other hand, aren’t we, as writers, lucky? When the writing is going well, it hardly feels like work at all. We are charmed enough to be able to pursue something we love, whether it pays the bills or not. Rearranging words on the page is certainly not physically dangerous, like descending into a coal mine, or a daily obstacle course of life and death, like cardiothoracic surgery.
It can be hard on both counts. Hearing others belittle your work — “oh, you get to write? that must be so fun, not to have a real job!” — is painful and unpleasant at best, soul-deadening and humiliating at worst. And yet, I think most of us have also had the experience of hearing another writer drone on about how challenging and impossible this kind of work is, how writing is harder than anything else in the world.
It is hard. It is not that hard.
It will not kill us early. But on the other hand, there is no end to it. You can put in hours and hours, you can go to the best schools and pursue all the right channels, and you can still produce writing that someone will think is not that great.
And perhaps that’s what’s so hard about it. That’s what makes it work. It is not always fun. It is a mad, powerful dream and we are mad, powerful people who chase it. We’re not graded on effort. The words at the end are all that matters, and we can drive ourselves absolutely bonkers trying to get them right.
Writing is work. It isn’t necessarily easier or harder than other work. None of us is going to get a gold medal for choosing it. Being writers doesn’t give us license to denigrate others for choosing other avenues for their time. It doesn’t make us more special than the average person. Everyone is special in their own way.
But it’s what makes us us. Writing makes us writers. And as we put in the hours, days, years it takes to produce the final product we know we’re worthy of?
That’s work. There’s no question.