Monday, July 13, 2009

Writing is like Farming and Exercising

I was thinking recently how writing a novel is a lot like a long term weight-loss goal, or playing Nintendo’s Harvest Moon on Wii. How are these things alike, you wonder? I shall tell you:
  • All three take time, discipline, and don’t happen overnight.
  • They’re tedious and at times frustrating.
  • They all provide a sense of accomplishment at the end.
  • But mostly, they take lots and lots of hours to complete.

Author Jennifer Weiner on her web site likens it to getting a dog (#6 on the list).

This is true. I shall explain. Losing weight and exercising doesn’t happen overnight, even though I’ve labored under the misapprehension that it will for nigh on twenty years. You have to sculpt and tone, and that takes a lot of time. Years, even. It’s soul-crushing, I know. Now, Nintendo’s Harvest Moon series is a game about farming and the game play never gets anywhere until you’ve tended several seasons worth of crops and raised many generations of animals. Worse, you have to water your crops and pick weeds and milk your cows every day—as well as keep up with your friends in the town and bribe them with cooked dishes that you’ve made with the crops you toiled over. My husband cannot understand why I play this game. Neither can I, actually, except that I’ve been able to realize all my farming fantasies without actually having to do the back-cramping labor involved.*
*No, I don't actually have farming fantasies. But if I did.

Harvest Moon is actually quite calming in its routine, although I admit here and now that I have never completed the game because I simply can’t put that much time into virtual crops. But it is a lot like a novel, except perhaps that writing a novel is worse, because it’s not nearly as certain. You plant, you water, you harvest….and you still might not have a beautiful crop at the end. So then you go back and sculpt, mold, and polish. You still might not have a perfect body. At this point you might have to have a little talk with yourself about how maybe your novel was crap to begin with.
What is the point of all this? Well, things take time and lots of effort. I was kind of hoping they didn’t—after all, we live in an Instant Gratification Society, but once I thought of weight loss and Harvest Moon, I didn’t feel so badly about the time it takes to write (including the editing and the little moment you have months after you think editing is over where you go "Oh, actually I've deluded myself hideously; everything has to change") . That being said, I do put in a lot of time. I still believe you can get what you want if you put the time and effort into it.

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