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 “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.
How 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.