A young friend of mine is writing a novel. When I told her about the hard work I had been doing to find an agent for my own first novel, she said, ” wish I were at the point where I could be querying people! This novel is a headache, I’d give anything to be done.”
Done: her answer made me think. If writing is a headache, why do we do it?
Here’s a good reminder from the musical world: Jay Hunter Morris, a tenor, made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in a 2011 production of Wagner’s Siegfried, a show which requires the lead tenor to be on stage, singing at full power, for most of the four-hour production. Morris, a hefty blond, looks the part of the Wagnarian hero on stage, but when he’s back stage, you see where he really comes from: Texas.
He’s soft-spoken, bright-eyed and humble, and is refreshingly down-to-earth about where he started and how he got to the stage of the Met.
“When you’re by yourself in the practice room,” he says in this video, “trying to figure out how to sing high notes, how to sing proper German. There are no shortcuts.”
And it’s not easy, he says.
“So you’ve got to love the process. And I have loved the process.” (Check out the 10:30 minute mark in the video to catch the lovely Texas twang that turns the word loved into a three-syllable poem.)
You can tell, by watching Jay sing, that he loves the music itself and the fact that he gets to bring it to life, not the mere fact that he’s on a stage.
“I didn’t just twinkle my eyes,” he says.
These days, I think of Jay Hunter Morris often. I think of all the years he spent alone in a practice room, learning a part, not sure where it would take him.
As eager as I am to get my first novel out there, I loved the excitement of writing the first draft. Some days, I felt as though I was reading, not writing, a book that no one else had seen, only this book was written on my brain, not on paper. Now, I’m revising that book, a task I thought would be painful or difficult. It is difficult, but fun. I am in love again, with the process of making this book funnier and deeper, transforming it into its better self.
Like Jay Hunter Morris, I spend hours by myself in my study–the writers’ version of the practice room–trying to figure out one sentence at a time how to understand characters, perfect dialogue, and structure my plot. I can honestly say that I love the process.
Last night, I happened to be in the car with my young novelist friend and her father, who is a career novelist. “Revision?” he said when the topic came up in conversation. “I really like to revise.”