So said 19th century American novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Truer words have never been spoken. When you read writing that flows, words that engage you and you're in love with, I would say, hand on heart, that hours of meticulous and hard work went into creating it.
Because great writing doesn't happen by accident.
I first started writing stories when I was at high school, long, rambling tomes. I called them my 'Downfall Series'. There was The Downfall of Ferguson the Fiendish, The Downfall of Dawn the Dastardly, and The Downfall of Huntley the Heretic. The stories were populated with my school mates, teachers we didn't like (they were the villains), the fanciest cars imaginable (we all, magically, had our drivers' licences and roared about in Triumph Spitfires) and the most elegant and captivating locations my 13-year-old mind could imagine, like the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Container Terminal and the fancy wine bar on K Road.
I progressed to writing short stories and plays and by the time I was 16, I was getting serious about things. My best friend's Mum was a writer. She had written for newspapers too, had a journalist's eye for stories, and editing the writing down to extract those magic words that flow so effortlessly on the page was her forte. She took me under her wing.
Most Saturday afternoons I would sit at the dining table with her, show her my work, and she would set to with a red pen, slashing and burning just about every word.
I was devastated because I thought my creation was perfect in every way. How dare she presume to tell me otherwise? But I didn't protest. I took it on the chin but wow, I suffered inside, and my creative ego took a bruising.
Over time, I learned, saw what she was doing, what she was getting at, and the slashings became fewer. My mentoring with her went on for several years and into my adulthood. I would send her pieces of writing from wherever I was living (we did things by post back then!), she would do an edit and send it back.
So I learned early on that good writing is hard work.
Sure, when we're getting something down, in the full flush of creativity, we can't be too concerned with editing and how things sound or look. It's about capturing it on the page so we have that raw material to craft into those fine, fabulous words. And that's where the hard work, the real writing, begins.
I am grateful for the many Saturday afternoons that my friend's Mum spent with me, giving of her time and expertise to help me with my Downfalls, plays and other projects.
At that young age, I thought I knew everything, and no one was gonna tell me different.
Fortunately the wisdom of years has taught me otherwise.