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Elusive

January 30, 2012
tags: ,

I’m one of those inclined to say that writing is easy. That’s why I chose it. I’m ‘good’ at it.

It’s true that words come quickly and flow onto the paper (or screen) in a way less tortuous than others lead me to believe:

“Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”-Gene Fowler

“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.  If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.” -Paul Gallico

But then that voice starts up. That voice of self-criticism and even self-hatred. Without that awful voice, I know, my writing would muddle along at the same level. It needs to be goaded into improving. But that voice ties my stomach in knots and sets me fretting about the room. I’ll do anything but write when it really matters. Arrange papers. Do laundry. Check my finances. Ugh.

But then there is the other thing. Like a fern unfurling? Somewhere inside there is that thing that creates the need in the first place. There is that thing that puts my fingers on on the keys and sets them tapping. The knowledge that it is there is not enough to explain what it is. I’ll call myself a writer, but one without the words to say why I write.

My usual strategy when I need to write:

Read read and read until my head is full and bursting. Every time I dread starting the piece, read another article that will feed the story. One hopes that this will create a pressure cooker in my skull. All of the words stuffed into the brain will just ferment or stew or cook. Then when the feeling just gets to be too great the valve comes off and words get on the page.

For a brief moment, before reading the result, everything is glorious. I am sure that the story just shaped is golden, brilliant.

But at some point you need to re-read what you have written. Then the torture starts again and is never done and never perfect until it is time to publish or turn the wretched effort in to the teacher.

Printing out the piece sometimes gives me a momentary lift– aha! Look, I have written something!– but there is no satisfaction until I get some kind of feedback. The edits are the best. The roadmap is laid out and all the writer needs to do is follow it. With luck, the humble little thing can be polished to a passable glimmer. I’m not sure if my prose will ever be golden, but for some unnamable reason I keep trying.
The thing with the blog is that I hit publish before the luster leaves. It’s a blog after all.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 26, 2012 9:29 am

    When I’ve reached the point when I’ve done all the reading and reporting I’m going to do, I write a “vomit” draft. I let the words spill out onto the paper unedited. When I’m done, I go back and to clean up (err, edit). That seems to work for me especially when I’m working on long articles.

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