Last night I stayed up late when I should have been sleeping. But I’m on a girls’ weekend in the mountains and treating yourself to fun things is what it’s all about. A little forbidden coffee with cream. A slow walk that’s social instead of a sweaty fast hill walk. Lots of dog petting and noticing the light. A little clothes shopping (impractical white jeans) and by God an olive-oil tasting (I bought the Tuscan).
What I did staying up late was not yoga or writing, reading good books or anything at all edifying. It was watching the old Tom Hanks/Geena Davis movie, A League of Their Own. A movie most remembered in my family for the quote: “THERE IS NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Said with a fierce scowl by drunk, unshaven Hanks (a woman crying terrifies him), in my family it is used to mean: stop complaining, this isn’t such a big deal. Don’t take things so serious.
Last night I noticed a different quote. “Why’s it have to be so hard,” says one of the gals. “I like that it’s hard,” Hanks says. “It wouldn’t be any good if it wasn’t hard. If it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it.”
Whew. It struck me that the same is true of writing. And why it feels so good when you’re done.
Leave Me Alone I’m Writing
I spent most of my free time in the past twenty years revising a novel. People around me noticed I never wanted to go out or do much else. “I never see you,” they said. “You never want to do anything,” my husband said. I got them all trained to pretty much leave me alone. I’m pretty self-sufficient, and most of my friends are too. We got moreso.
After a while there weren’t so many complaints. I didn’t want to see people mostly because I was in a foul mood much of the time. Novel writing – at least this novel writing – was hard. Very very hard. It was a long novel, with multiple characters, and a couple centuries of story arcs. I could hardly keep track of them myself. How on earth would a reader be able to? “You can’t do it,” I said to myself. “You’re just not good enough” (rolling on the floor, groaning).
Fortunately, I got help. My loyal band of writer friends was there to buck me up, cut my darlings (thank you, Karen P.), refocus me, tell me it WAS good. It was just hard. It wouldn’t be any good if it wasn’t hard. Everybody would do it if it wasn’t hard.
There is No Crying in Baseball
Turns out that old movie was edifying. It helped me remember: it feels good that it’s hard. And the little gap between “done revising” and “going on book tour” is the refreshing home base moment when you get to see clearly enough to take a breath, appreciate what it is you’ve done, before you start swinging for the stands again, clear-eyed, knowing it’s hard, and if it wasn’t, everybody would do it.