Those are the words that the man I was dating—a plumber—said to me when I told him I couldn’t meet until after I finished editing a piece for a deadline.
Another boyfriend, a chef, showed up late for a dinner date. “Must be nice to play on your computer. You have no idea what it’s like to be on your feet all day.”
I agree. That’s hard. And so is writing. The thing is, I never understood that I was a writer, so how could I expect other people to take me seriously? I’d written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines—was an editor and monthly columnist for some—and had written an award-winning book as the youngest author the publishing house had ever signed. But still, I never considered myself a writer.
I told another guy I was writing a novel. His response was, “I don’t see what you’re so stressed about. Writing’s not hard. We’re not talking brain surgery here. It’s just a bunch of words.”
You’re right, I thought. It’s not. In the same way that being a hitchhiker differs from taking a hike. Which is what I eventually told him to do—choosing the kindest words possible.
The truth is, writing is like plumbing, preparing food, and being a brain surgeon all in one. Writing and plumbing are similar in that as a writer, it’s your job to unclog your creative pipes and let your imagination flow. As a chef, you’re constantly trying to cook up exciting new recipes to present the same magical ingredients—in the case of a good story, a lovable protagonist, exciting plot points, and an unforgettable ending. A brain surgeon must be precise, and writers must find just the right words to help readers make new connections, enter alternate worlds and expand their empathy and capacity to live their full humanity.
As a writer, you risk being misunderstood, rejected, and criticized. But I still love it. Writing makes me come alive. I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do.