Two of my sixth-grade students estimated how long it would take to write a book.
“One hour,” said the first.
The second boy must have noticed my look of incredulity, so he deliberated a bit longer and went all out. “Six hours!” he said.
The second guess was approximately the time it takes me to write a brief paragraph.
In Growing Up, the inimitable Russell Baker wrote about his first glimpse of writing as a career. He brought home an essay from school, emblazoned with an “A.”
“Buddy,” his mother said. “Maybe you could be a writer.”
Russell delivered newspapers. He had never met a writer but he liked the idea. He had his reasons.
In Growing Up, he wrote, “Best of all, though, and what really gladdened my heart, was the ease of a writer’s life. Writers did not have to trudge through the town peddling from canvas bags, defending themselves against angry dogs, being rejected by surly strangers. Writers did not have to ring doorbells. So far as I could make out, what writers did couldn’t even be classified as work.”
Still, for many who write, it does feel like peddling, defending and being rejected by surly strangers, after years—or at least six hours—of attempting to put a story on paper.
But as for my sixth-grade students, maybe one day they will find a book that so delights or moves them they will wonder how such a feat was accomplished. Maybe they’ll write something that they need to say—no matter the length, no matter how long it takes.