Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Words happen when you least expect them but sometimes on the page

A writer writes, always.

Except for the dead ones.

Two questions have often occurred to me: one, hey, Nick, if you want to be a writer so badly, how come you don’t actually write very much and two, if you want to be a writer so badly how come you don’t seem to enjoy writing that much?

Well, smart-arse (he said to himself), the answer the first question is in the second question. Writing and not enjoying it does not appear to be that uncommon. Witness the parade of mopey bastards that the Guardian interviewed (Writing for a living: joy or a chore). With the exception of Will Self or thereabouts, they don’t seem to particularly like the act which has underpinned their (successful) lives.

For example: ‘Writing novels is no fun; nor is, generally speaking, reading novels. Reading people writing about novels is not always fun, either.’ – Amit ‘I Am A Human Sunbeam’ Chaudhuri. Or: ‘When I was young, I thought that the fun part of writing would be the "creative" bit, making stuff up and inventing things. The older I've got, the less fun this has become. I dread it.’ – Geoff ‘Sponge of Dripping Joy’ Dyer.

Of course, if you’re AL Kennedy – which I am not – I don’t suppose you’ve ever encountered joy anyway:

This is AL Kennedy on acid.

But the second question remains. Why the apparent lack of enjoyment? I guess it's partly fear of failure. Writing is important to me. I'm afraid I'll do a bad job. Ergo I don't enjoy it. If I were surrounded by an infinite number of validating monkeys then it might be easier. (Do you know any?).

If you can write unconnected from expecations of succcess or failure, actual enjoyment may be possible.

I've had a little more success in writing of late by forcing myself to write 500 words a day. I've stuck to it for about a month now, meaning my novel is now up to 62 000 words. The 500 words zip by if I have a clear idea of what to write. They drag by if I have to make up the plot as I go along. The last couple of nights I've been conscious of hauling the plot kicking and screaming in a direction it probably doesn't want or need to go in. The two short scenes I've written probably aren't that necessary for the plot -- and yet the very act of having written them is useful, I think. They may or may not make it into the final novel but doubtless something from them will be salvaged and while I'm writing, I'm er writing always.

I have this difficulty: I know that writing when the way is clear is much easier than when it is not -- but if I stop to plan a scheme I frequently grind to a halt. I tend to develop byzantine plots with uncomfortably large holes in them. Simply writing is often the best (or only, albeit painful) way to fill in these holes. If I sit around and order my brain to produce exciting plot-filla (tm), it tends not to oblige.

Soooo. The moral of this story is... The moral of this story. Is...

Arrgh. A hole. Will fill it in later. Or you, dear reader, can write your own moral.


Tim said...

I once heard Terry Pratchett describe Douglas Adams as a writer who hated writing but who loved having written, whereas Pratchett enjoys the act of writing itself. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle - when I'm "on" writing is enormously fun and invigorating. At other times it's a real drag, and I admire the fact that you've written so much of your novel, because it shows that you've taught yourself/are teaching yourself to write even when the words aren't flowing. I'm still trying to develop that kind of fortitude.

Glad to hear the novel is coming along.

Jo said...

I hate the before-writing part. Hate.
The during-writing part is the tolerable but tedious drudgery I have to go through to get to the glorious, tingling after-writing part.
I love that part.

Huh. Writing is like exercise. How boring.

hazelblackberry said...

**But the second question remains. Why the apparent lack of enjoyment? I guess it's partly fear of failure. Writing is important to me. I'm afraid I'll do a bad job. Ergo I don't enjoy it.**

Okay, I'm not a writer so maybe I just don't get it but I have two thoughts:

(1) Maybe you don't enjoy it because you're writing with publication and approval in mind. Shouldn't your first audience be you? Shouldn't you write what gives you pleasure and interests you BEFORE you start worrying about anyone else's opinion?

(2) Yeah, I read that Guardian article a while ago. As far as I;m concerned Will Self was the only honest one amongst them. What a load of old cobblers the rest of them were sprouting. As TISM would say, "suffering for their art-y types". Jeez.

hazelblackberry said...

But, you know, good for you with the novel thing. Well done, old bean.

Not Drowning Mother said...

"It's only words
and words are all I have
to take your heart away"

Don't ask why that song popped into my head when I started reading your post. And certainly don't ask how I managed to remember that Boyzone did a cover of the song a few years back because that's some scary shit about my memory, especially since I struggle to remember my children's names most days and I never liked Boyzone in the first place (for the record).

Good luck with the novel. Do novelists have the same superstitions about people wishing them luck as those theatre types? In which case, I say "Chookas!".