Walking the Cat . . .

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Archive for April 2015

The Thing About Writing . . .

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There are times I feel this “writing thing” will drive me mad. Errant thoughts dance through my mind just at the edge of awareness and just as my conscious mind is about to snatch them up, they skitter away, laughing (or so I imagine), like children in a game of tag. I try to capture these twinkling, dancing bits of brilliance and lash them to the page with streams of ink but I cannot.

Neil Gaiman once said something to the effect that writing was simply the act of sitting down at the computer and writing one word after another until you’re finished. (I don’t write at a computer; only transcribe the finished work. I use a pen — a Zebra F-301 ballpoint with a fine point). There is a part of the writing process missing from Gaiman’s description, the absence of which anyone who has attempted to write anything will recognize. Writing isn’t simply the act of putting one word after another. The thing that makes writing so deceptively simple and so maddeningly difficult at the same time is writing the right word, in the right order, on the page. That is the agony and the ecstasy of the writing process. It is also why there’s so much emphasis on rewriting; the need to find the right words.

Re-writing (writing, too, for that matter) is a sadomasochistic act; sadistic in that we demand it of ourselves, masochistic for submitting to it willingly (even eagerly). Writers have a tendency to perversity (in our writing regimens, if not elsewhere), so rewriting is just one more bit to be added to an ever-growing list of perversions, including (but not limited to) imbibing obscene quantities of caffeine-laden beverages along with dangerously high levels of nicotine (I tried e-cigarettes, but it’s just not the same), prolonged periods of self-imposed isolation (during which friends and family may be inclined to fear for our health, mental and physical), and repeated bouts of self-flagellating, mind-fucking self-doubt; all this, and more, in some demented attempt to simply “put one word after another” on the page. What sane person would submit, willingly, to such a nightmarish ordeal? Me. I would. I’m a writer.

And when it’s all over, the writing and the rewriting; when we feel, finally, we’ve found all the right words and managed, through force of will, to put them in the right order on the page, ready for the world to see, what then? We bind our wounds; gather up all the tears of frustration, the curses of self-doubt, the whoops of joy and the screams of anger and fear. We bundle these into our journals and diaries . . .and pour them all into our next book, or short story, or essay.


Written by stevewthomas

April 19, 2015 at 6:12 pm

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