It Only Looks Easy From the Outside

Just recently I noticed that writing and theatre have one particular trait in common.  For years I’ve been commiserating with my students about those individuals who are not 14405099_s“theatre” people–students outside the department in search of an “easy A” or people who audition for plays drawn by the glitz and glory of the stage–who have no idea how much hard work it takes to “play.”  There is no job in the theatre that does not demand 110% of a person’s time and commitment.  To give anything less would ruin any chance of a good production.

You cannot be half-assed in the theatre.  If you don’t devote yourself entirely to it you will end up with missed cues, dropped lines, misplaced props, shoddy scenery, and ill-timed lighting.

Writing is like that too.  You have to give it your all.  You have to sacrifice if you want it to be the best.  You have to revise and edit–again and again and again.  You have to work at promotion.  You have to submit query after query–and face rejection after rejection.

Those who try to “cut to the chase”—take short cuts, put forth work that is not ready—will likely end up with plot holes, unlikable characters, incorrect spelling and grammar, wandering body parts, and a reputation for bad writing.  You have to stay the course.  Give it your 110% if you want to create a work that you will be proud of and that readers will be eager to read.

17270995_sHow many people do you know who have said to you, “Oh, writing. That’s not very hard, is it? I’ve thought about writing a book.”  They may think about it, but unless they are committed to the process, “thinking about it” is the only thing they ever do.

But they will continue to think it is easy.  Because we make them believe it is.  In theatre, if the production is seamless, anyone not knowing how much work has gone into the show will think it took little effort.  And that is what we strive for.  That is part of the illusion, part of the magic.

The same can be said of writing a book.  If the finished product is as perfect as can be, readers will take that perfection for granted, accept it as the standard, and assume it really was very easy to do.  That, too, is part of the magic of fiction. They do not see behind the scenes:  the time-consuming collaborations with editors and cover designers, delayed releases, demands for immediate turnarounds of edits, struggles with voice, and writer’s block.  The realities  of writing.

So I salute all writers who have the put the time and effort, the sweat, the angst, and maybe even tears into their work.  You know the difficulties you face and yet you continue on, working for that release day–your “opening night.”  Kudos to you!  Take a bow!

Writing and theatre–they only look easy from the outside.

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8 Responses to It Only Looks Easy From the Outside

  1. I’m woefully behind on my emails, but I had to comment….well, said!

    And so true! Those who have never tried to write really don’t understand how hard it is to get everything in the story just right.


  2. You are so right about both books and the theater. Having been a theater arts major when I first started college, I learned a lot about hot difficult productions can be. And now that I write books, I know what effort goes into those. I find books easier!

    I recently encountered a woman (a very nice woman, who I have come to like) who “wrote a book” (she admitted it was ghost-written), and had “added a lot to it” and had gone to a “publisher.” They only wanted $1000 to publish it! Egads, I said, don’t pay to have your book published! I had to give her a comprehensive course in writing and publishing. Suffice it to say, she thought it too much work and is going to spend the $1000 to have it done for her. It’s a shame, really, but there are a million stories like that. Writing and getting published is a hard job and very few people appreciate it.

    Great post, Jenna.


  3. Wonderful post, Jenna! Don’t forget to sign up for the historical fiction blog hop at


  4. Sue says:

    Funnily enough we recently had some work done in the house. And at the time I was revising a story a friend had told me converting it into a show not a tell. The fellow who did the work said, “oh you’re a writer. People tell me I should write a book because I have so many funny stories.” When I gave a couple of examples, and his stories weren’t that different anyway, of what he would have to do to write his stories, and no I couldn’t do it for him, he had second thoughts.


  5. Cait says:

    Great post, Jenna. Do you know that I quite like the fact that people think it’s easy — go on, thinks I, be so completely wrong :). So many people think as well that because my first books are e-books, that that’s even easier which is a bit annoying though. You’ve put my thinking cap on now :).


  6. I once had someone tell me, “Oh, writing is easy. You just churn the books out.” I’m still holding a grudge against her.


  7. Daryl Devore says:

    When people do things extremely well they make it look easy and others think “I can do that.” How hard can it be to ski down a hill or dance on your toes? Great post.


  8. I love this post. I had a discussion with a friend who also taught me how to edit. She recently had to work with a woman who sold her first book in a three book deal to one of the big six. She hadn’t written either of the other two books and when she submitted the second, it was rejected. Because she didn’t know why her first book was good, she didn’t know how to repeat the process. This author had to learn fast, or pay back the large advance she’d been given.


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