There is a joke I like to play on my husband.
Sometimes he forgets, you see, and he tries to explain sports to me. This is not an easy task, because I take stubborn pride in my willful ignorance.
"The point of the game," he says, "is to get the ball through the goalposts."
I nod sagely.
"So let's start with the defensive line. Their job—"
"Wait." I try to look innocent when I ask questions like this, but I have no poker face. "If the point of the game is to get the ball through the goalposts, why have a defensive line? Wouldn't it be more efficient if all the players on the field helped move the ball?" While he's spluttering, I go on. "If everyone worked together, they could score in the thousands. Football could be even more efficient than basketball!"
This is blasphemy, I know, but it's awesome blasphemy. It's impossible to defend something like football on the grounds of efficiency. Even though an initial description might make you think that the point was to maximize the number of times that pigskin passes through poles, that isn't what the game's about.
So why do I write? There's a set of easy, pleasant answers that a demure author is supposed to give. "For the joy of it." "Because it is in my blood—I can't not write." Or: "Because I want to see my book on the shelves."
All those answers buy into the premise that the reward of writing is commensurate with the cost. It implies that, somehow, writing is the most efficient use of my time—that I maximize my happiness by writing books.
I do love writing, but I also hate it sometimes. Seeing my book on the shelves actually makes me nervous. And besides, I write romance—a genre my stuffier colleagues go out of their way to denigrate as something that doesn't require any particular creativity or intelligence.
Writing is hard. Writing romance is hard, no matter what anyone tells you. It's intellectually demanding. It's creatively hard. And it even requires its own set of analytically rigorous tools. Writing romance is the hardest thing that I have ever done—and I've done some crazy things.
I can push and push and push, and get absolutely nothing done. I can delete two months' work in one morning—and I have. It is precisely because it is so hard that I do it. It's not efficient. It's not gratifying. I'd have more fun playing computer games. If writing was just passing pigskin through poles over and over without any struggle, I'd move on—no matter the other benefits.
Writing is crazy and irrational. And, I guess, so am I.
Courtney Milan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, a marginally trained dog, and an attack cat. Milan is the author of Trial by Desire, published in September by Harlequin. You can find out more about Courtney at www.courtneymilan.com.