What Do You DO All Day?

Originally Posted: May 23, 2012

I’m about to head off on another 3-day writing retreat, and my teenage daughter is not so happy about it.   “Why do you have to keep going away to work on this book?” she asked me the other night after dinner.  “What is it you DO all day when I’m at school, anyways?!”

I was blindsided, unable to respond.  I’m used to fielding these kinds of accusatory questions from my mother, but this was the first time I had to answer to my child.

I should have seen it coming.  My daughter’s friends’ mothers are dermatologists and accountants, school teachers and event planners.  Even the potter mother has something to show for her efforts at the end of a busy week. Not always true in my case. There’s the occasional publication, yes, the seasonal reading and of course, the possibility of another novel coming to the bookstore sometime in the next decade. But mostly, the work writers do is solitary, underpaid, abstract.  For each book there are unseen years spent struggling with demons, casting out invisible lines, straining to hear imaginary voices, and often, mostly, blundering, deleting, starting over…

My daughter was waiting, eyebrows poised.  I longed to explain about the almost transcendent patience required to hear a character speak. The rigor of falling on one’s face and repeatedly getting up… The sometimes ecstatic, always painstaking work of crafting a world.

I sighed. “It just takes a lot of time, honey–” I began.  My teenager rolled her eyes and turned her back on me. Which is, of course, her own painstaking work right now.

Posted by: Dori

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