I believe it was Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing. I love having written.” (My favorite quote of hers is actually the one where, when asked to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence, she quipped, “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.”)
But I digress. As I am wont to do, because, damn, writing is a weird occupation.
I can’t agree with Dorothy about hating writing, or say I only get joy from the completion. I love the “Oooh, ooh, I got an idea” aspect, and the fun I have with alliteration; tinkering and toying with language. I adore having characters make me laugh with their crazy dialogue, which totally arrived out of the blue and not out of my head. It’s a rush, and a delight, and a privilege to spend so much of my time in my imagination. So no, I don’t hate writing. What I hate is how damn uncontrollable it is. You can’t own it, and you can’t direct it. You can surrender to it, try to trick it, bargain with it, or make a blubbering fool of yourself over it, but it permits no master.
The image I most often picture is that of those weird water snake toys we had back in the seventies (cough-cough, I mean eighties) where you’d try to hold onto them but the tighter you gripped, the faster they’d squirt out of your hand. The equivalent of that happened to me today. Work on the new novel was slow going for most of the day, with me wailing and agonizing and, as I usually do when I’m fearful, merely editing old pages instead of getting on with the show. (This isn’t wholly a bad thing, as it saves me having to do a zillion drafts.) Then, just as I give up, head to the living room, and turn on CNN for my evening dose of “Hey, look how shitty the government is!”, I go back into my little cave… just to close up my computer, you see… and come out an hour later with five new, rather lively pages.
What. The everloving. Fuck.
Perhaps it’s time I learned to cede control over the process, and just accept that it may take me a whole day of banging about the house, being useless and catching up on episodes of Nashville (which is fucking fantastic, by the way, at least if you write romance), before my brain ekes out that elusive element I’m after… inspiration. Yet anyone who knows me knows that “laissez faire” and I are not on speaking terms. I don’t easily let anything ride. (My calender reminders have calender reminders.) I fear if I don’t wrestle, I’ll get nothing done, and frankly I don’t think I’m wrong about that. I suspect that without the all-day grudge match, my unconscious would not have had time to percolate. And the more often I apply Ass A to Chair B, the closer I get to producing Product C, which is the novel I need to write.
I guess that’s why they pay us writers the big bucks. Ahahahahahahahahaha.
Seriously, it’s a privilege to be a writer, and I’m luckier than I have any right to be. But it’s not always easy. And boy-howdy, it’s one trippy gig.