For several years now, ever since we got our satellite Internet connection, I’ve been thinking about how many words I spit out each day – in emails, student critiques, press releases—and whether any of that counts as writing. The answer is sort of. But not really. It’s kind of like the difference between fast food and real food.
When my first book, Now Go Home, came out a reporter asked me how long it took me to write an essay.
“About a year,” I said.
He nearly fell over laughing.
“Is it getting any easier for you?” he asked.
I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure I wanted it to get any easier. The long process of writing, revising, then writing some more, was, I thought, the whole point. Every writer I knew and admired had spent years on a single essay or story. Maybe not every single essay or story, but still …
Truth is, five years later, the process is easier for me. Essays come faster. Sometimes in less than a week. But the books I love the most simmered for a long time. And the writers I admire the most are the ones who have stuck at it for years. They’re not necessarily bestselling authors, but they are real writers, who have what Michael Ventura calls the “Talent of the Room.”
That is, I suppose, what I aspire to.