The "Whiskey" in "Whiskey and Stardust"

I don’t remember exactly why I named this blog the way that I did.

Except that I was trying to go for something evocative. The tag line, “The Hard Stuff and a Bit of Magic” came after. I came up with it on the spot while I was getting the logo designed, a simple job I paid for on Fiverr. There was a field asking for a tag line, and I realized I didn’t have one (and that I needed one). Whiskey is hard liquor, and Stardust is kind of magical. That was really the extent of my thought process.

But over these past months, I’ve thought about what that tag line means. There’s a certain dichotomy between “the hard stuff” and “the magic,” a dichotomy inherent to the art of writing. And although I’ve only taken this writing thing seriously for a few years, I’m shock full of opinions (I know, surprising). I don’t claim to hold any position of authority, beyond the fact that paying for a website means I’m at the very least entitled to shouting my opinions into the void that is the internet. Tonight, that shouting will be centered around the “Hard stuff” part of that tag line.

Writing is Hard

There. Blog post done.

Not really, I’m nothing if not long-winded and hyperbolic. I’m going against my New Year’s Resolution in writing this (those things are bullshit anyway) but writing is hard. Well, “writing” isn’t hard, but “Writing” is. Anyone can put enough words together to form some flailing attempt at a coherent sentence, but writing something that people will actually enjoy reading is a task. An endeavor. A labour (in the Herculean sense).

Throughout my youth, I’ve been told that I’m a talented writer. I excelled at writing assignments in high school (until I was told I couldn’t write about Star Wars anymore), and writing was a hobby in high school. When I went through the grey, uncertain glob of time others will refer to as “my early twenties,” I thought that would be enough to get me through. I started with content writing, and figured I could make some good money that way. Then it sucked the soul out of me. And it was in that bleak time, with a certain void in me, that I turned back to fiction. Ironically, I sold my first story (a terrible erotica piece lumping together a disgusting collection of fetishes) during that time, and haven’t sold one since. Maybe it’s because I write things I want to write, and no one wants to read them? I’ll admit I’m still curious about that first client. In all likelihood, it was someone looking for a ghostwriter, who’s now made more money on that story than I ever will. But I like to imagine it’s an eccentric millionaire, paying out for custom-made erotica pieces for some sordid private collection.

I got distracted.

Writing, with the capital W, is hard. It’s easy to claim yourself a writer, put some words together, and be done with it. But when it’s a calling, when it feels like everything else in life is a hollow construct you have to suffer through just to get back to writing, you have to put in some difficult work. You can’t just worldbuild and write outlines, you’ve got to actually put words down to craft a first draft. And when that’s done, you have to revisit it eventually, and rewrite it into something that makes sense (and isn’t just self-indulgent). And after that’s done, and you’ve edited it to hell and back, it might not end up as anything (I’m querying right now, dealing with rejections, please ignore this), and you have to pick yourself up and get back on the horse to write the next one.

With the first novel, I managed to stick to my routines and quotas rather well. I didn’t miss too many writing days, and I managed to get it edited in a decent amount of time. Overall, I got the thing done in a year, which I think isn’t too bad.

This second novel has been something else.

Faced with the fact that my first novel might not actually amount to anything, might not actually get me all the Writerly Success(TM) I expected, it’s difficult to stay on the horse for the current novel.

I alternate between thinking that it’s total trash and that I’m total trash.

And I think that’s why writing is hard; like any other art, you have to temper the sheer creative, inspired force of the thing with regimented routine. Otherwise you don’t really get anywhere (or if you’re particularly good, you get somewhere when you’re much older than I am now). It’s difficult keeping to that routine when you feel like there’s no point. You treat this like a job, but you don’t make money for a while; there’s a cognitive dissonance to it that’s hard to ignore.

Right now, I’m just trying to stay motivated, to keep the routine in place, even through the blinking warning signs that tell me I’m no good, that I should give up and join the masses.

Anyway. That’s the hard stuff. Keeping to the routine of it, to the hard work, and not just riding the inspiration when it comes. That’s how you get stuff done. If I can leave this with a positive note, it’s that getting anywhere as a writer involves flipping off the abyss, the existential dread that lurks around every corner, ready to tell you you’re not good enough.

That’s a process I’m still trying to work on.