Today is the birthday of John Steinbeck, one of my favorites, who said: "The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true."
As a writer, I know this is true. But I'm not acting like it. If it's the most important thing in the world, then why am I not sitting down and tippy-tapping out delightful words for eight hours a day?
(As aside -- wouldn't the world be a much lovelier place if everyone believed that the work that they do -- whether for salary or not -- is the most important thing in the world?)
Stuff gets in the way. Some days, the work I get paid for seems to be the most important thing in the world. Some days, it's finishing a quilt or a pair of socks. (!) And some days, the most important things in the world to me are sitting on the couch watching TV with Clay or baking a German Chocolate birthday cake. Some days, I don't think I am cut out for this writing thing.
And writing can be discouraging. Our book, Escaped With Honor, is now in the substantive edit process. What this means is that everything we have worked so hard on for the last year and a half -- every paragraph, sentence and word -- has been picked apart and reshaped by a kind but persnickety editor. I had my first good cry in months (not counting Silver Linings Playbook) when I saw our first edited chapter.
(When I taught English 101/102 at Akron U., we were asked not to use red pen in grading essays, as it was discouraging and looked as if we had bled all over our students' work. I never before realized how true that was.)
I said some not-very-nice words.
And then, I re-read the chapter with the edits. Shit. It was so much better.
Since my goal is getting a book into Chuck's hands ASAP, I'm drying my tears and waiting on the next chapters. His book might not be the most important thing in the world to everyone, but it is to him. And right now, that makes it the most important thing in the world to me, too.