03 February 2013

The Thing About Writing

Today is Super Bowl Sunday.  Yes, I watched the game.  Seven years of living in Denver at the beginning of John Elway’s career when I was a kid, and every Sunday afternoon to kill because my parents were usually away doing church stuff, ended up in a bit of a football addiction. It lasted quite a while, actually. And even now, when I haven’t watched another game all season, I’ll snuggle down to watch the Super Bowl.

The game this afternoon started off well, but quickly got old as the Ravens seemed to effortlessly (and mostly unopposed) glide into the end zone.  It should be noted that I didn’t care who won—I just wanted a good game to scream at.  So effortless is not acceptable. I want hard hits!  I want scuffles after the play! I want Hail Mary’s.  I want turnovers! I want a close, nail-biting game that literally keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Yeah, so the first half of the game didn’t provide that.  Good thing for the commercials, or I may have stopped watching. Oh, and the comfy couch I was sucked into.

We’ll skip the half-time show.

First play of the second half and I started ignoring the TV.  Then the power went out at the stadium.  Somehow this reset the brains of the 49ers and they suddenly remembered they were here playing for the championship of their sport.  The BIG game.  Then things finally got exciting.

As I watched the 49ers fail to get into the end zone at the end of the game, I had a thought.  Those guys have an entire season of football behind them. They’ve played their hearts out for months to get to this position, and most of them would feel it a privilege.  However, watching them, I thought, “How sad to have your entire year be defined by this one, last play.”  And they didn’t pull it out.

I thought about it further, and drew a few too many parallels between the game and writing a novel (like the dull start, the bizarre half-time show, the lack of intensity and then the rush to the end) before breathing a sigh of relief, knowing that I, as a writer, do not have to bank my entire career on a novel I’m forced to write in a few months, and a climax that I got exactly five minutes to work out.

Sure, authors have deadlines, writer’s block and distractions, but we generally get time to make that scene just right.  To tweak the emotions of our readers a little to the left, or tug at their heart strings through a series of encounters with our characters.  And even if you’d like to change it after it’s in print, it’s not like you spewed the words forth and people read them as you typed them, noting all of the tense mistakes, bad grammar, mis-used semi-colons and the extreme occurrences of ellipsis.  We get a chance to fix it.  We could have twenty chances to fix it.

All you authors out there, take a deep breath, hold it, close your eyes, let a smile creep to your lips, then exhale.  Because even with all of the struggles that come with trying to become a successful author, the career has its advantages.  No Hail Mary’s, and no opposing team to bat your words down as you type them.  (Ignore your editors for a moment)  Revel in your process, and tighten those laces so your work in progress is the best it can be.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pep talk Jo. I needed this today. And I am so glad we get to practice writing a scene over and over again as we strive to perfect it.

Imogen Elvis said...

Oh thank goodness writing is not like football or I'd have lost it long ago. Great pep talk for writers, and I love how you compared writing and football.

Anthony Dutson said...

Well put! Heaven knows (and my editing group - YOU), that I usually need several 'do-overs.'

And I know girls watch football just to look at the guys butts. ;)

-Jo- said...

Thanks, Imogen!
And Tony, I don't have any idea what you're talking about...