The 0.00000000001%…

So this graphic was going around Facebook recently (at least, that’s where I saw it), and I was immediately struck by how true it is. Not just for writing, but for any project, really. The work thawriting glacier equatet goes into a project isn’t evident once the project is finished, whether that’s a novel, a statue, an album, a huge marketing campaign, or whatever else.

But the fundamental misunderstanding that is being highlighted here is one that beginning writers get tripped up by a lot. I’m sure I am not the only author who has been approached by someone who says some version of the following:

“I have a great idea for a book, and someday, when I have some time, I’m going to write it down!”

Instantly, I’m confident that this is one book which will never get written. Why? Because this person clearly thinks that coming up with the idea for a book is the hard part, and with that out of the way, they can just “write down” the novel at some time in the future when they have a few minutes. And that’s skipping the assumption on the speaker’s part that writers somehow have oodles of free time which they use to laze about and write novels, because clearly, they don’t have anything else to do like the speaker does.

This is cousin to the other utterance authors hear a lot:

“I have a great idea for a book! You write it, and then we split the money.”

Again, we have a fundamental misunderstanding on where the work is going to be on a novel-length project. If you’ve barely reached what is described in this graphic as the “dreaming” stage, you have done perhaps 0.000000001% of the work. And that’s forgetting the assumption that, once you write a book, someone just hands you money for it!

Sometimes I wonder if people involved in other creative endeavors ever meet someone who says, “I have a fantastic idea for a symphony, and someday, I’m going to write it down!” or “I have an idea for a statue—you carve it and we’ll split the commission!” Somehow, I don’t think so, though I don’t know for sure. But it seems writing is dismissed as something everyone does, and therefore, it requires no training or special skill or development. When, of course, writing well is incredibly difficult. If you do it right, then, like the graphic depicts, your finished work will only represent the tip of the iceberg. Few people will know how much work actually went into the project from start to finish, and, chances are, no one is standing around just waiting to pay you for it.

So if writing a novel is something you really want to do, you should. But be realistic. Having an idea is nice, but now you’ve got the other 99.9999999999% of the work left to do.


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