I sometimes get into, I won't say arguments, discussions about why I write and why I take it seriously. "You're just making up stories," seems to be the refrain. "Anybody can make up a story." This is true. As I've said before, I believe people to be essentially composed of stories just as we are of molecules and, ultimately, Strings. However, there's a massive difference between being able to string a few people along for a half an hour at a party and using words on a page to put the images you want, and ONLY those images, pleasingly into the minds of people you've never met and will mostly never see. When I tell a story, even a fiction, in person, there's a freeform aspect as well as a smidgen of what could be called personal charisma. Grease. People read each other when telling tales face-to-face. There's a sort of ebb and flow that blurs some of the lines between audience and "performer." If the girl in the shimmery dress is not really feeling the part of the story where you're drunkenly stumbling around some club, accidently spilling drinks on people, well, it's a simple matter to downplay that aspect and shift to something that makes her eyes light up. In prose, in any written fiction, you never see the girl's eyes, lit or not. You never know what bits keep her attention and which cause her to drift toward the guy at the pool table in the flannel shirt and Levis. So you work. You cut, you sculpt, you bend, you paste, you rip, you tear, you emend, you addend, you do all that to make the story into the literary equivalent of RNA which you shoot out into the ether in hopes that it will link up with some anonymous person's literary DNA and flick those evolutionary switches as you desire. And that takes work. Hard, solitary, sometimes mind-cracking work that exists on a completely different (and, yes, higher) level than that bar room raconteur or curbside spinner of mundane tales. If one does it well, it looks effortless. Just as winning the Men's Freestyle in the Summer Olympics looks effortless for the victor. But it's not effortless. It's labor intensive. We accept the labor that led up to that victory for the swimmer. We expect that he has spent YEARS training, suffering, working, working, working for the sole purpose of shaving off a fraction of a second from his swimming speed. I think it would be nice if "we" began to think of writers in the same way as we do that swimmer, as worthy of the same sort of respect that he gets or the carpenter gets or the seamstress or the plumber. So, the next time (if you're a writer) someone tells you "anyone" can do what you do, invite them to try it. And the next time (if you're not a writer) you feel inclined to express that facile and wholly dismissive sentiment, by all means, put up. Or shut up.