I was talking to my cousin, who is an actual professional artist (she exhibits paintings and also teaches art at the college level) last week and she asked about my writing. I gave her the usual rundown of what I was up to and when things would be published and what I was hoping would happen, and then she asked me a question that really stopped me in my tracks.
"Do you get pleasure out of writing?"
Well, that was a stumper. Pleasure? I'd never actually thought about it before. Writing is something I do; it's something I've always done since I understood language. It's what I do for a living. It's what I do here once a week. I pay my mortgage with writing; I use it to buy food and other necessities and maybe the occasional indulgence, but never a large one. Writing is what I do and in some ways it's what I am.
Writing is not easy work, no matter what steam pipe fitters tell you. It's not always physically taxing, I'll grant you, but it can make your brain hurt pretty seriously. The author and screenwriter Gene Fowler once said, "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." It's sort of like that, except not that messy. For me, it's nothing Aleve can't handle. But then, perhaps I'm not as good a writer as Mr. Fowler was.
I am the walking embodiment of yet another aphorism regarding the creative process: I hate writing; I love having written. It's sort of like exercise in my case--I'll do anything I can to put off the activity for as long as possible, suffer through it, and then feel good about myself because I managed to survive, maybe even well.
Now, don't get me wrong: I don't want people to think I'm suffering horribly while creating stories for the reader's enjoyment. But not suffering horribly is a far cry from getting pleasure out of the deal.
Let me put it this way: I get pleasure out of eating Raisinets. I'm not crazy about the result of eating Raisinets. But I do love looking at the shelf of books I've written, and I absolutely exalt in getting feedback from readers who have read and liked my work. Writers have egos; we're just so used to getting them stepped on that we often keep them hidden in a secret drawer until everyone is out of the house.
So an honest answer would be yes, I do get pleasure from writing. Just not while I'm doing it.
P.S. Congratulations to the winners of the QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD audiobook contest, Melissa Andrews, Larry W. Chavis, Kayla Jackson, Gayle Trent and Katie Zwilling!