Blood on the Forehead

The title of this blog comes from a quote from Gene Fowler:
“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Fowler:
“After a year at the University of Colorado, he took a job with The Denver Post. His assignments included an interview with frontiersman and Wild West Show promoter Buffalo Bill Cody. He established his trademark impertinence by questioning Cody about his many love affairs.”
Now you understand why he had blood on his forehead.

Writing is difficult – all that grammar and punctuation and stuff; is it really worth the bother?
Peter de Vries, a writer who joined the staff of the New Yorker in 1944 at the insistence of James Thurber, had this to say about being a writer:
“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”

It’s an interesting distinction: being a writer rather than writing. You have this image in your mind that you’re at a cocktail party (who has cocktail parties any more?) and someone asks you what you do for a living. “I’m a writer,” you say, trying to keep your voice as matter-of-fact as possible. “A writer?” they reply. “That’s interesting. Do you have anything published?” And that’s when the band of red appears on your neck and gradually works its way upward until your face is one huge blush. “Well, no,” you say and mutter something about having an agent considering your work, or having your work out to some publisher – the implication being that you’re just waiting on the contract being signed and the six figure advance being decided on.

Writing is not an easy option as a career. Getting published by a bricks-and-mortar publishing house is difficult enough, but the process of writing itself can often be appallingly difficult. Another way of putting it is: “I don’t like writing so much as having written.” There’s no doubt about it; writing for publication is not for the dabbler.

If you want to write well you have to prepare yourself for an ordeal. You don’t want editors to send your submissions back commenting, like the unnamed English Professor at Ohio University, “I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.”

So if writing is so difficult, what is it that keeps people doing it? Is it a way of separating ourselves from the herd? Do we do it for the fame? The fortune? Do we do it – and this is the kicker – because we actually have something to say that other people want to hear?

I don’t know the answer to these questions as well as I’d like. But I’m hoping to come closer to understanding what makes a writer tick, in the course of this blog.

(For a list of my books on Amazon see here)