Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Grit and the writing life

You know when you read something that just makes you laugh out loud?


In an interview between The Globe & Mail’s Simon Houpt and Sarah MacLachlan, the departing president of House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books, MacLachlan (not to be confused with the musician who shares her name) was asked:


Do you have a novel in you? Maybe a roman a clef about a scrappy independent publisher?


Her reply:


God no! Being a writer is a really, really tough job, and I am deeply admiring of people who write, because it’s you and the computer and that’s it, you know? And I don’t have that kind of grit.


I laughed out loud because, people, it’s the truth, and it’s wonderful to hear someone – someone who isn’t a writer – acknowledge it.

Oh sure, everyone knows it’s hard to sit down every day, open the computer (or notebook) and just get at it, when so many other distractions are pulling you away. (You do know that, right?)


But it’s the recognition of required “grit” part I like. That’s the part so many people outside of the writing life don’t understand.


You know what takes grit?


Tolerating rejection. Rejection over and over. Years of rejection. And still sitting down with your manuscript and working to make it better, not giving up, believing in yourself, seeking help. And submitting again, knowing that you’re probably going to be rejected. Again.


Flying under the radar. For every publicity-engorged, widely reviewed, list-promoted, award-nominated, “You have to read this!” next-best-seller thrust in front of the reading public, there are many, many more quiet, small-press, deserving books languishing in the shadows with no fireworks to launch them into the world. And still these writers write.


So thank you, Sarah MacLachlan. It’s refreshing to hear someone recognize, publicly, with respect and complete self-awareness, that, yes, writing is a tough job and – cue the “grit” – not everyone can do it. You made me laugh, because it’s so true.

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