The past few years have seen a tremendous rise in the variety of “…For Dummies” books. Now available on almost every conceivable subject, these books show that there is a belief that anything – any subject, any activity, any skill – can be made EASY.
Not easier. Easy.
Adverts for nicotine-dispensing chewing gum, or electronic cigarettes push the idea that withdrawing from smoking can be done with ease. Without effort or discomfort.
The sad and unpopular truth, is that all these ideas are wrong.
It’s certainly possible to buy a book called, for example “7 Easy steps to write your book”
You can follow the advice inside and find it’s a better way to write than the method you previously used. It may take less time, or be more efficient.
But YOU still have to write your novel. YOU still have to have the idea and commit to writing the words down. Maybe 100,000 of them. The new method may (and probably WILL) help sort your ideas out, give you a structure to work within. It may make it EASIER to write, but it’s unlikely to make it easy.
This is a good thing.
Because worthwhile things take hard work to produce. Michelangelo’s “David” wasn’t bashed out in an afternoon. Lennon and McCartney took more than five minutes to write their songs, and even that writing came at the price of years of playing and singing to develop their skills. Yes, some people seem to have an innate ability to do something wonderful, whether it’s playing, or singing, or drawing or water-skiing, but that ability is never enough to carry them all the way to greatness. That ability usually only confers a love of the medium, a love that ensures they are happy to put in the time that improves on their natural skills. It never feels like work if you love doing it.
Giving up smoking isn’t easy. Why should it be? You’re kicking an addiction, having to change ingrained habits. You’re not just learning to cope with a craving for a smoke you can’t have, you’re finding ways to occupy hands that usually fiddle with a cigarette, avoiding buying new packs of smokes in the shops you visit every week, turning down offers of cigarettes from friends who haven’t quit… Gum may help with one aspect of that struggle, but it’s not going to be the answer to everything. That will take effort.
Part of that effort could be examining these helpful guides though. Certainly many hints and tips exist to help a new author find a different method of approaching their work. To find a different organisational system, a different method of plotting, of outlining, of editing. All these possibilities might improve your work, reduce the number of times you have to backtrack or review what you’ve done. It IS worth looking at them, and speaking to other writers and editors to learn what you can from their experience.
Nothing will make completing your work EASY, nothing will do the work for you, but you CAN be more efficient, be more organised and be more realistic about the work involved.
This post is a response to a recent discussion about “overnight success” and how rarely that phrase is accurate in the world of publishing or screenwriting. All that happens overnight is that the wider world becomes aware of someone who has put in a great deal of work in private before something reaches a tipping point and they achieve success.
Please feel free to argue with this assessment of the situation in the comments below.
Incidentally, I did give up smoking, using a two-step plan I devised myself. Step one was “not buy any more cigarettes”. Step two was “Don’t smoke anyone else’s cigarettes”. It was a simple plan, but it was not easy.