Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

The Writer’s Job – Bliss or Torture?

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Maybe it’s blorture (bliss + torture)? It could also be tortiss, because that sounds like “tortoise” and writing (for me, anyway) is often painfully slow. – Brian Plank

Right now, when I sit with almost a full month of bills ahead and a near-empty bank account, a slew of book proposals to send out, and only the tiniest gossamer thread of an idea for a new book, I’m on the torture side of the great Philip Roth/Elizabeth Gilbert debate.  But then, I remember that I’m not cleaning toilets anymore, not grading stacks of papers that I carry everywhere on my aching shoulders, and not having to put on real clothes to work some days.  Then, I slip to the side of bliss. 4969247447

The thing is that I’m with Brian Plank on this one – the writing life is blorture and tortiss.  Just like any other job.  I hear my friends who are teachers talk about the way they see their students’ faces glow when they “get” an idea for the first time, and I watch them shuffle from on a Friday when they not only taught but also had parent-teacher conferences.  I know my friends who are stay-at-home dads and moms absolutely go stir crazy and crave adult conversation some days, and on others, they post pictures of their children that show absolute adoration and a desire to be nowhere else. For years, I’ve watched my dad take giddy joy in physical work, the way a shovel shapes his shoulders and his hands get rough with dirt, and yet, some mornings, his aches were so bad he could barely stand upright.  All jobs are bliss and torture, I expect.

(And on a side note, if your job is all torture, you’re in the wrong job. I truly believe that.  If you can find absolutely no joy in your work, then find something else.  I know, I know, easier said than done.  But if you’re not trying to find something else, well, then you’re a glutton for pain, I suppose.)

As a writer, I open myself up to criticism more than many people do; there’s both pain and blessing there.  To do my job, I have to cut myself open and let other people peer in. Sometimes, people poke at my raw flesh, and sometimes people salve it.

As a writer, I work in a profession where the financial rewards are few but the personal and communal rewards are many.  I may be eating a crockpot full of Lentil soup for a week, but I have the gift of working with writers every day, helping guide them to words as a teacher or standing beside them as they carve open their own stories for people to see.

As a writer, I do a job that both requires me to be very self-disciplined, and yet, I also have a freedom of schedule that is the envy of many.  I can work 14 hours a day (as I do many days), but then, I can also take a my notebook and pen and hike to the top of this mountain where the trees whisper to me.

So writing, yeah, I think it’s some of both.  On days like today, when I have yet to really dip into that soft pool where the words swim, I’m a little edgy about cash flow and weary of all the administrative work of a writer.  But later, when I feel those submerge myself, when it feels like I actually dive into the words, all that will fade, and I will swim into bliss.

What I do know is that if we elevate writing to some sort of paradise or if we denigrate it to some sort of dungeon, we probably miss out on all the beautiful complexity that is any work.  Some days, yep, writing is torture, but every day, there is the promise of bliss.

What about you? What is writing like for you? 

Today, I’m writing on calling, Queen Esther, and Lent over at Jennifer Luitweiler’s blog for her Lenten series. I hope you’ll stop by. 

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • http://KatieAxelson.com Katie Axelson

    Definitely blorture… though the prayer is always that the bliss outweighs the torture.
    Katie Axelson recently posted…Rescue Is ComingMy Profile

  • http://8thdayfiction.wordpress.com/ Brian

    YES! Quoted on Andilit!

    [OPENS UP RESUME, STARTS FURIOUSLY REVISING]

    As one who has a day job and tries to squeeze in creative stuff (what I’d like someday, maybe, to do as a day job), it’s the same here. Bliss: I get a steady (if meager) paycheck that provides for the family and allows Laura to stay home with the girls, I get benefits through work so I don’t have the added expense and hassle of looking for a deal and figuring out how to pay for it ourselves, I work with nice people and get out of the house. That’s the bliss, I guess.

    The torture is the commute. The sad gray and beige fabric-covered cubicle, brightened only by pictures of the girls and their drawings. Co-workers who don’t know the difference between “reply” and “reply to all”. Coming up with a great idea at 10:38AM on a Tuesday and not being able to dive into it right then and there but having to settle for scribbling down a reminder of it down on a Post-It note and then wait…and wait…and wait until I have the time to spend on it. It is a trade-off. I try to focus on the good stuff and not be too whiny about the bad.
    Brian recently posted…He Had Hundreds Of ThemMy Profile

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry The Deuce

    Writing is this bursting forth like a flower in the spring that finally blooms into something beautiful. The problem is having patience and the pain of waiting and pruning, etc.
    Larry The Deuce recently posted…Is It Wrong For A Christian To Dream?My Profile

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