A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, January 8, 2010

Yes, It's Hard...Really

Last night I was able to prove to my wife that yes, writing is hard. What made it more hilarious (to me anyway) was how the topic came up. You see, my wife is working on her Bachelors degree in Accounting. Like most other undergraduate programs, she has to go through an English/writing class. Her school (WGU, which happens to be where I graduated from as well) has her take a pre-test first to assess current knowledge. If she did well enough on it, it would be the equivalent of passing a final exam and she could skip taking the class. So as she was working her way through the questions, she asked me for help with one.

Now before you all stab me with spears, no I did not help her cheat on the test. Even though there is nobody monitoring her taking an online test, I refuse to help her cheat. And yes, I love her more than life itself, but too bad.

The question was similar to the following (not exactly, but you'll get the idea):

"Annie wanted to go to the movies, but she had chores to do. Annie's mother explained that once she was completely finished, she could go. So Annie worked harder, and soon enough she was heading out the door, whistling a happy tune"

In the paragraph above, identify the word that is an example of a redundancy.

I'm going to leave the answer to the question for commentors. First one to answer it correctly gets super cool bonus points, along with a virtual awesome writer trophy. Plus you can brag to all your writer friends. Really.

I did not tell her the answer, nor did I even tell her how to find it. But I did help nudge her in the right direction so that she could understand what they were asking for.

This then opened up the conversation on why writing is hard, even for us writers. I explained that this is the type of thing I have to go through on a daily basis, every time I sit down to write. I have to choose the right words. I have to make sure I'm not wasting words or using three words when two will suffice. The lightbulb over her head turned on as she realized just what I was talking about. She shook her head and (not for the first time) agreed that writing was not her favorite thing to do, especially considering the difficulty even us writers have to go through.

Chalk up one more person who understands our plight. Writing is exceedingly difficult. Besides the mechanics of the language, we also have to create a story someone will enjoy. Then we have to clean it all up so that we're not wasting words. Then we have to find and cut out sections that really don't work (a difficult task at best, since we have to get past our own viewpoint). And after all this work, we still have just a story, not a published book. I haven't even broached the subject with my wife yet on how difficult it will be to actually get it published once I have a finished, gleaming, awe-inspiring final draft.

Do people around you truly understand how hard it is? How do you go about explaining the effort involved?


Sandra said...

The word is "completely." You can't incompletely finish something. ;)

ElanaJ said...

I had to work really hard to find it!

And yes, my husband gets it because he sees how many hours I pour into making something better. He saw how long it took for me to find an agent. He sees it all. And it's LONG. And HARD.

lotusgirl said...

Good one Sandra. I was thinking that the repetition of "Annie" was very redundant.

Nisa said...

My husband is the only non-writer I talk to about it and he gets it, but then he sees me working at it. :)

Eric said...

Sandra - Nice job. Now I'll have to craft your virtual trophy.

Elana - You had trouble finding it? I would have thought you would beat everyone else out.

Lotusgirl - No, that redundancy is my own poor attempt at capturing the essence of their paragraph :)

Nisa - That's cool that he gets it. My wife sees me working at it, but I think before now she really didn't "get" it.

Davin Malasarn said...

Nice post, Eric. I do appreciate it when people figure out how hard it is for us to write and publish. To be fair, most people are impressed when they hear that one has finished a book. It seems to be the publishing part of it that is assumed to be easy. Have your wife spread the word!

Sophie Playle said...

Found it on the second read. I also thought that perhaps the phrase 'a happy tune' could be redundent, as it would be obvious that she was whistling a tune, and that it would be a happy one - but this disrupts the flow of the text, and can be considered good discription.

On this train of thought, perhaps the word 'completely' shouldn't be taken out, even though it is technically redundent. If it reflects the tone of voice of Annie's mother, then surely it adds a richness to the writing?

Just some extra thoughts.

Good post. And yes, writing is hard! A lot of my more scientifically/mathmatically-minded friends always say that they hated English at school because they didn't like how it was so open to interpretation.

So many people think that if there isn't a set answer to a problem, it's easy to blag an answer - it's easy to be 'right' with anything you say. Not so. It just means you have to think extra hard for your answer, and back it up with reasoning and evidence.

That's why I've always loved literature and the written word. :)

Cindy said...

Yes, writing IS hard! But it's not just the mechanics of it, there's the creativity part, too. And then trying to mesh the two while simultaneously making what you wrote sound interesting and draw people in...ugh, it's fun but definitely not easy work.