I have decided writing is like one of the memes we often see on Facebook:
What Readers Think We Do: Sit in a spacious, color-coordinated office plunking away at the keyboard while drinking the latest brew. Dash off the occasional side note to our Personal Assistant so we need not trouble ourselves with mundane chores. Ain't nobody got time for that.
What We Really Do: Try to find our way to the computer stuck in a closet through a narrow aisle carved out among stacks of rejection slips, unpaid bills, moth-eaten manuscripts with sticky notes hanging out the sides, cast-off socks, slung-off bras (if you're female) and coffee pots that no longer work. Occasionally tripping over the dog or cat that has taken up residence in your closet/office because they can't find you anywhere else. That's your Personal Assistant.
What Readers Think We Do: Glance up at neatly arranged poster boards to study color-coordinated stickies (more stickies, can't live without 'em) that Spell Out the Plot, Give Us Pacing, Fill in Plot Holes, Map Out Plot Twists and lead straight to the Happily Ever After.
What We Really Do: Peer, bleary-eyed, at the same damn manuscript we peered at the day before that still has a developing plot (at least we hope so), a sagging middle, plot holes like Swiss cheese, and an ending that makes you consider...well...ending it all. Sort of like a fatal disease without painkillers.
Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the writing process.
This creative process is like entering uncharted, deepest space where No Man/Woman Has Gone Before. There is no road map and the stars are never in alignment. You can't file a flight plan because a) you have no idea in bloody hell where you're going, and b) this journey can commence as early as 3 a.m. or as late as midnight. Along the way you may encounter the rare Exploding SuperNova which gives you the Happily Ever After, and this makes the perilous journey worthwhile. More commonly you will find Deepest Space which is both black and blank, stardust which is pretty but does not fill in plot holes, and the occasional Black Hole that sucks you into a time warp. If you are unfortunate enough to encounter one of those, you will emerge unable to remember what day it is, where you put the car keys, or the names of your children.
And this brings us to a final point:
What Readers Think We Do: Go to the mailbox only to remove juicy royalty checks mailed by our publishers.
What We Really Do: Go to the mailbox hoping there may be a $50 check. Go to the mailbox to remove bills--lots and lots of bills. "Don't Give Up the Day Job" was written for writers. Many of our books have been pirated for free downloads by sites as various as Free Reads R Us or Porno with a Freebie. If we had the money to pay a Personal Assistant we would undoubtedly assign them the endless, time-robbing chore of mailing takedown notices. It is endless because as soon as you take down one, your book pops up on thirty more, some of which have simply taken another name and are now Demon Downloader. We write at 3 a.m. or midnight because that's the only time we have to write. What you are reading are our hours stolen from sleep. We keep our jobs because a) we like to eat, and, b) we have a huge vet bill because the dog had to have his leg pinned after we fell over him for the 19th time. Our own legs may have been pinned, too, but at least there's insurance for that, if we can keep the premium paid.
Sigh. It's nearly 8 a.m. and I've been writing since 5 a.m. I had an exploding SuperNova while walking the dog--the one without a cast. I hope I've cleared up a few key points about the writing process. It's not really all that mysterious. You just have to be crazy.