I called this blog L.C. Morgenstern’s Fantasy, Fiction and Folklore Rants and today it’s earning its name.
In my experience people who are not writers tend to fall into two groups – the ones who want to be writers and the ones who don’t – and each of those groups has a typical fallacy they fall into when they think about what it means to be a writer. Worse, they tend to overlap – people who decide they want to be writers often get a harsh slap in the face from reality and thus fall straight from the It’s Easy Fallacy into the It’s Hard Fallacy.
THE IT’S EASY FALLACY: Don’t get me wrong: anyone who can make a living off writing is extremely lucky to be able to work in an industry that they love. But people tend to forget the two key words in there: WORK and INDUSTRY. Writing is a job. It can be a job you love and which come easier to you than, say, lifting heavy boxes all day, but it’s still work and work takes effort. Moreover, writing is part of the entertainment industry. People can cry about how writing is an art all they want, but ultimately art is an industry and industry is about working to earn a living. All work requires effort. Physical work requires physical effort. Creative work requires mental effort. Most of the work may take place inside your head, but that doesn’t mean it’s not work or that the only effort required is in the finger muscles. No one would say that an accountant, for instance, doesn’t have to put in effort and work to do their job, even though it’s mostly mental (and calculators). No one would say that a businessman thinking through what deals to make and how to keep their business running doesn’t work because there’s no physical effort involved. Yet people feel free to say that writers have it “easy” because they get to do something they love and it “doesn’t take effort” because it’s not physical. That’s bullshit. Firstly because writing does take effort – if you don’t put the effort in you get at best cliché-filled, cardboard trash copied directly off the work (and effort!) of those who have come before and at worst tlty epc fanfics liek plz R&R cuz liek its no a marysue dontliek dontread mean!!!1!. (For the record, it physically hurt to write that.) All creative work takes effort. Secondly, however, it’s bullshit because there are plenty of non-artistic jobs which the employees can count themselves lucky to have because they love the work. Sure, there are huge numbers of people who hate their jobs, but I’ve known plenty of business people, doctors, scientists, teachers, accountants and others with “not creative therefore not fun” jobs who loved their work – the challenges of it, especially – and who would have been utterly miserable as a writer because that wasn’t what gave them joy.
But I’ve seen far, far too many fools who believe that the world is divided into black and white – and therefore that either you have a job you enjoy (meaning you cannot complain about the bits which you don’t like or even admit that it’s not so easy that you don’t really have to do anything) or that you don’t have a job doing art what you love (which must be hard and complaint-worthy). Artistic jobs, writing included, are not akin to ordering a slice of cake in a five star restaurant and then complaining about how much effort lifting the silver spoon is. Artistic jobs are arriving at nine in the morning at that five star restaurant, using your employee ID to get into the kitchen for your shift and working – baking, washing, scrubbing, cooking, cutting, icing, stirring, etc – until midnight, only occasionally getting to pause to glance out at the dinner rush where other people are eating the slices of cakes you made (and rolling your eyes as they complain about how they would have iced it differently and it takes effort to raise their silver spoons) …and, if you love your job – if you love creating art – then watching other people enjoy what you made is worth the effort. Reading is getting to eat cake. Reading and then complaining about the effort is like buying cake and then complaining that you have to eat it. Writing is baking the cake, while rushing to keep up with other orders and keep the kitchen from being set on fire, and then not getting to eat it because you didn’t make it for you. You made it for the ungrateful twats who think digesting is a huge effort on their parts. You have to love the act of making, rather than the product.
Sadly, the It’s Easy Fallacy is extremely prevalent and – like a customer in a restaurant who can’t understand that no the customer is not always right – many, many people then assume that the cooks/artists don’t have to put in any effort and that anyone can do it because it’s easy. Kind of like the customers who berate their servers for being “idiots” and then go on to say that they could totally have made that five star meal at home cheaper and better …and then try it. Sometimes by storming into the restaurant kitchen to show everyone that they obviously can make a better five star meal because being a chef takes no effort. It’s Easy. Anyone can do it.
These people tend to get one hell of a whack in the face from reality when they step into the kitchen and realise they have no idea what the recipe includes or what all the strange items (i.e. the oven) actually are. Sometimes they leave the kitchen wailing about how it’s not fair because it’s supposed to be Easy. Sometimes, far FAR less often, they roll up their sleeves, wash their hands and admit that maybe they could use a cookbook. The second type take a few tries to produce something that’s even marginally edible and many will never make it to being five star chefs, but they do make something because they’ve accepted that it’s not easy and it takes effort – but they also enjoy the work and that makes it all worth it. The first type, however, run away the moment they hit…
THE IT’S HARD FALLACY: (Or should that be “But it’s haaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrd!!!1!”) The modern generation has grown up being told that they could be anything they wanted when they grew up (proven bullshit – evidence: I’m not a turtle), that art is “easy” (primarily because school teachers don’t give honest critiques of art by students due to pressure to not be negative and therefore being overly-praising of everything), and that writing isn’t “work” so it should be cheap or free (fuck you for that, by the way, Amazon, printing the books was NOT the highest costing part of making them and you didn’t need to shoot the industry in the kneecaps with 0.99-2.99 sales ranges for things which could easily cost 15-20 to make given how many hours writers spend, the editors and illustrators wages, etc, way to destroy the industry with your eBooks). In other, less aggressive, words, people have been taught that writing is easy and that they should get riches and praise for stringing so much as two words together while simultaneously insisting that they shouldn’t have to pay for it just like they don’t pay for roads and other government funded things which improve their lives (which would be just fine and dandy if the government was giving artists a living wage out of the readers’ taxes, but they AREN’T). 99% of writing on the market (and in fanfiction) is trash at the moment because society has recently decided that it’s wrong to tell someone, no matter how gently, that they’re crap at something even when they are extremely crap at it. Instead we are expected to lie and tell them that it’s really good – and that’s not fair on either party.
What all of this means is that when someone who is not a writer by nature tries writing, on the assumption that “Everyone has a book in them” and “writing is easy” they quickly discover that actually …they don’t and it’s not. Unfortunately, the idea that writing a book is a cool thing to do means that many, many of these people refuse to accept that writing is just not their thing and keep going. Note that I don’t say “persevere”. Persevere implies some level of dignity. Someone who persevered in writing I could respect. But not these people. These people proudly call themselves “Writers” while bewailing that they have no ideas, that writing is haaaaaaaaaaaaaard and that they have writer’s block – when they do manage to string words together the character’s are flatter than cardboard, the setting and plot are both wholly unoriginal and filled with more plot holes and inconsistencies than things which make sense, and the technical side of the writing (grammar and word use) could have been done better by a bright five year old! News flash, people, it doesn’t matter what genre you write in – be it paranormal romance or dystopian or erotica or drama or genre busting things with penguins – if you are a writer you have ideas, you enjoy the hard work of finding the perfect word and editing the damn grammar (even as you curse it), you take the time to understand human psychology so that you can write 3D characters, you put some damn effort into making the plot and setting work and more often than not you can’t not-write because your head will explode from all the ideas if you don’t!
It’s like with cake. If you find that measuring all the ingredients, exerting yourself mixing them and having the patience to wait while it cooks is “too haaard” admit you’re not a fucking baker and go by one someone else made.
No matter how easy you find the creation process (assuming you’ve even tried it, which most of the It’s Easy Fallaciers have not) you don’t have the right to equate easy with effortless and then tell people who are talking about the exertion that they have no place to complain. Likewise, no matter how hard you find something, you have no business wailing that you are a “writer” and “love writing” but find the entire process “too haaard” (in that case you’re a liar on both counts).
Please consider the following: three people are set to climb Mount Everest.
Climber 1 reaches base camp and wails “But it’s soooooo haaaaaaaard. It’s supposed to be easy! Everyone says it’s easy! I thought there was an elevator to take me uuuuup! CARRY ME!”
Climber 2 turns to Climber 1 and says “If you don’t like mountain climbing, why don’t you go home and do something you’ll enjoy?”
Climber 1 replies “But I’m a Mountain Climbeeeer!” Climber 1 then sits down at base camp and refuses to climb the mountain, insisting that Climber 2 and Climber 3 will have to carry them and that they should be nice about their criticism.
Climber 3, meanwhile, puts on the minimum of climbing gear, gets into their hired helicopter and is flown to the top of the mountain – having never actually climbed the mountain – and waits for the others at the top, mentally congratulating themselves for having climbed a mountain and reiterating that mountain climbing is easy and effortless because they love it.
Climber 2 scales the mountain alone, weighted down by their equipment. Their arms, fingers and legs ache, they experience utter dread as they fight with the cold and the thinning air and eventually, eventually, with much blood and sweat, they make it to the top. Climber 2 looks down exhausted and, while Climber 3 watches, hoots. “That was so much effort!” Climber 2 exclaims in exhilaration. “What a challenge! …Damn that last crevasse did a number on my gloves.”
Climber 3 watches this in disgust and sneers, “You said you love mountain climbing. How dare you imply that it takes effort to climb a mountain – I didn’t put in any effort and here I am! You shouldn’t complain about hard bits in something you love, as if that can exist! Bah, humbug.”
At this point Climber 2 pushes Climber 3 off the top of the mountain because they don’t get that loving something doesn’t make it perfect and the challenge – the effort – is the point, and Climber 3 wails “it’s easyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” as they fall to their deaths in the valley of bright-jacketed corpses of climbers who didn’t make it.
I’m sure this is going to piss some people off. I don’t really care. ALL WORK TAKES EFFORT. THAT’S WHY IT’S CALLED WORK. No matter how much you love something there will be things you don’t enjoy tied up in it. It’s never wrong to grouse about those things. It is wrong to claim you love something when all you do is whine (not grouse) about the bits you don’t like and don’t like any of it. There is a difference. Learn it. And don’t go about claiming that writing doesn’t take work because that’s the sort of bullshit which encourages the selfish and over-privileged to demand that writers do their job for free. Would you ask a businessman to run their company for free? Of course you fucking wouldn’t: it’s their JOB.
Art isn’t easy. No kind of art is. It’s never perfect either, and while someone who gets to do something they love for a living has less to complain about, it doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to complain – but if all you do is complain, instead of complaining about certain bits only and enjoying the effort, why are you writing? Writing isn’t just one thing. It’s the art of putting lots of things together – all arts are; and a whole extra truck load of other parts come into play once you’re trying to make it a profession.
The art of making art …is putting it together. The good and the bad. The ease and the effort – not one or the other – both easy and hard. That’s the state of the art.
Flame war in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…