Writing is like swimming in a sea of shit and it is a one man race to the finish.
One day you wake up in this vast ocean of crap and you have to swim to the other side, but you are not told where the other side is. So you just start swimming, trying to move straight in one direction while poop coats every square inch of your body. It seeps into your ears and oozes between your toes. Soon you are unrecognizable and every time you open your mouth to talk diarrhea flows in. You are not discouraged yet, but you do want it to end. You know the two solutions: one is to reach the other side where paradise awaits, the other is to flush the whole sea of shit down the drain and be done with it. But If you do that, you will have learned nothing from your experience. You will have jumped into a chasm of crap for nothing. So you continue because paradise awaits and you have only been bathing in excrement for a few hours now and the smell does not outweigh your enthusiasm. You hope that at the other side of this revolting experience you will be able to tell people what you discovered. It is a place only in your imagination and the reward for this voyage across an ocean of shit will be worth it. You can’t taste victory yet because there is manure in your mouth. So you turn over onto your back and start to backstroke, one stroke over the other, thinking about breathing, about maintaining rhythm, about powerful strokes. Conserve your energy because you are swimming in shit.
That is when it starts to rain. Did I say rain? I meant defecate on your spirit. Clumps of stool dump on you and now you can’t even see the endless horizon of waste.
This goes on. And on. And on. This swim does not take days or even weeks (unless you are a pro at swimming in shit—I cough up a kernel of corn as I mutter the name Stephen King). It takes months and years just to traverse this sea of fecal matter. If you are lucky, you will be giving an editor a ride across this ocean. Finding the right one is key. For the editor never tells you where to go, but instead tells you how to improve your stroke, how to minimize your energy consumption, riding you until you reach the other side. He/she might even have an umbrella.
But then you see it—a small plot of land in the distance, the peak of a mountain. The end of a journey is near and all you have to do is get there, you think; but once you do, you are still covered in shit. You crawl up onto the sand having experienced something and having discovered a place where no one has ever been. You gaze upon this world in your imagination, but you can’t run and tell everyone about it yet because you are covered in shit. No one wants to listen to someone covered in shit. They tell you to take a shower. So you meticulously clean yourself off and if you are lucky, again your editor will point out spots you missed and clean the hard to reach places for you. First, the writing gets a good rinse, then a scrub and another rinse, but you are not done yet. You still have to clean the crap out from under your fingernails and behind your ears. After you have done all that you can venture out into the world to tell everyone your story about how you swam in the most awful shit and about the island in you imagination you found.
So I sit here in my chair not knowing how far away the end is, only knowing how far I have come. I have learned a lot but I have not made it to the other side— yet.