The quote (and varia) is attributed to Ernest Hemingway and legendary sports writer Red Smith, among others, but I suspect writers across the centuries could relate, whether they were using quill or keyboard.
I've been immersed in writing for the last few days, at one point so deep into reworking an essay that I looked up to find 4 hours - and lunch - had come and gone. The piece was particularly tough to start, at times it felt rather like trying to find a way into an egg. There are an infinite number of ways and places to crack the shell, and it's smooth and hard and inaccessible until you decide to break in. I finally settled down on one approach to cracking the topic and words began to flow onto paper and then to the screen.
This time 'round, I was acutely conscious of the cycle of pleasure and pain that accompanies writing for me.
- Writing a new piece? Pain. Fear. Will I ever have a good idea again?
- Writing the first draft, in the abstract? It's a pleasure to turn things around in my mind, to crawl through archives and jot bits onto paper.
- Writing the first draft, as in putting actual words onto paper? Pain coupled with doubt. Do I have anything worth saying?
- Editing a draft? Pure pleasure as I nip and tuck my thesis into place.
- Final draft? Pain. Surely this is awful.
- Encountering a piece months later? Pleasure. Amazement. I wrote this. Surely not!
Photo is from pietroizzo via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.