(Note: Written as part of a monthly column for my writing group's newsletter. Recorded here for posterity and on the off chance anyone ever gives a shit about what I think writing is like.)
“I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling.”
Hunter S. Thompson
I wanted to start with this quote from a well-known nutcase and personal hero of mine. This is my first of a (hopefully) monthly column in the newsletter. It’s strange because I have almost no experience that would help with a writing column. I took a creative writing class once in college and I passed by sheer virtue of the fact that the teacher was too busy with his Herbal Pursuits MBA to notice my utter lack of participation. I can, however, meander on thoughts, ideas and ask foolish questions with the best of them. So that’s what I’ll do. I decided to start off with the big question:
Why do we do this? Writing I mean. It’s maddening work that never really seems to get any easier. I’ve noticed that I grow as a person and as a writer the only thing it allows me to do is see more problems. Don’t believe me? Try this game: Find something you wrote in high-school, college or some other previous time in your life. Try and reading it all the way through without beating your head against the surface of your desk. Winner gets cookie.
It should be so easy. I’ve been rereading ‘1984’ a lot for a short that I’m working on. At some point, in time I realized how well everything just works. The words flow almost effortlessly through the story and the message is so simple, concise and elegant. I often wonder why I cannot do that. It’s easy to forget the amount of times that Orwell had to write and re-write, yell, swear and drink until the words finally behaved themselves and started sounding right.
I go and look at what I have written. Hell, I can yell, swear and drink with the best of them, but it doesn’t seem to have much effect. That’s not to say their aren’t good moments. Sometimes I’ve got the right music in the background, I’m talking out loud in the voice of my characters, jumping up and enacting fight scenes and just getting down and jiggy with my muse.
It never lasts. In the morning we wake up feeling dirty and slightly ashamed. I’ll go to the computer, wonder what the hell I was thinking the night before and start deleting.
Keep in mind that those are the nights when I don’t spend hours staring at a piece of work. I don’t know what to do with it and it refuses to improve on it’s own. It’s what we call an impasse.
So why do we do it?
Myself, it’s kind of a natural thing for me. I don’t think there was a time in my life where I wasn’t making up stories of one type or another. Sometimes it was about imaginary creatures in my backyard. Other times it was how those imaginary creatures broke Mom’s decorative plate hanging on the wall. I’d usually get my ass beaten for the latter, but still. I would hesitate to call it an addiction; junkies don’t get distracted from their fix by something good on TV. There is a feeling that comes from composing something that people enjoy, something that inspires conversation and/or debate. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for a little bit of approval, but it’s a nice feeling either way.
Let’s not forget this feeling: That moment that you type in the last word, throw your hands in the air and proclaim to the world “I’m done! Now get me the hell out of this chair.” Sometimes that’s the best part of writing.... the part where it’s over.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours. I’ll have a discussion group in the Writers Block on the DII forum if you care to post your thoughts. Until then,
“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”