Sunday, July 23, 2006

Is writing fun?

Ever? I mean do people have fun doing this? I'll admit to there being times when, ferinstance, I'll be in the shower and all of a sudden the perfect dialogue for a scene will bud in my head, and I stand there under the hot water zoning out till it seems to be, ya know, in full flower ... water dribbling down through my hair, fading the dye, pounding on my skull like it could actually knock the ideas loose. And twenty minutes later I'm wrapped in a robe with my hair sopping on my shoulders feeling like the computer should burst forth with booming chords of congratulations, because yes, hooray, I have done it, I have written The Perfect Scene and it pops and snaps with reality and familiarity and passion, and it's real, it's what I meant to say.

But then I back off from that, because "waiting for the muse" -- I mean, what else have I described? -- and waiting to be struck by the muse has nothing to do with my definition of being a writer, which is that writing is a job, it is a profession, and writers write, and even if it sucks and you feel like every word is being slowly hauled out of your guts on squeaky coal-mine train tracks, you are still Doing Your Job, following the next point in your outline, and unbeknownst to you, it may turn out that this plodding scene, on re-reading, is actually really good.

Here's why I create this snobbish distinction: Because I can't stand it when people act irresponsibly and then blame their artistic natures, as if good manners and great art are mutually exclusive. Pollack cheated on his wife and drank himself around a tree. Oh, but he made great canvases that ached with passion, so it's all right. It's not all right! You can't hurt people! You can ache with passion and still keep it in your fucking pants! When I've acted irresponsibly, it was because I was irresponsible, not because I'm a fucking writer. Those "guys who work in finance" are pricks too, and they don't make canvases that ache with anything, they make money. So? What's their excuse?

Here's what set me off tonight. I read my friend's new book, and it crackled with excitement. I could feel how much she loved writing it. She didn't have to tease out extra scenes to make it longer; hell, I had the feeling it was much longer, and she had to cut stuff. She inhabited her world in a way that I used to do and have not done in such a long time. My, that's a bit of truth-telling. It's a fact. I can barely remember what it felt like to write the best parts of my books, and even then, I had to be shoved back into my desk-chair by the encouraging words of my then-editor, who practically held my hand (a third hand, some invisible non-typing hand) the entire time.

What's wrong with me? Why do I fight writing on a good day, and utterly lose the ability to on a bad one? When I interviewed Eric Boghosian (do I sound likke Dick Cavett yet?), he said he had to "hate the book into existence." I knew exactly what he meant! And he's a good writer! So but... what is up with THAT?!

The easy answer is that like with any job, writing has good days and bad days. Ah, but I prefer to just assume I'm awful. That way I can keep myself away from the keyboard for one... more... day.

13 comments:

jennifer echols said...

I am so sorry to disappoint you, but you are NOT awful. It's been about two years since I read Focus on THIS, and I still remember with such clarity my eyes popping out of my head at that first kiss scene in the library. Wow, this boy was too good to be true! And then...hey, he WAS too good to be true! The depressed mom, the friend bringing casseroles and wearing Halloween socks, the too-friendly TV producer...all of it was so funny and fresh and DIFFERENT. And the best thing of all was that I consider myself a pretty savvy reader, but I NEVER SAW BAXTER COMING. I never once thought he was going to be the hero, until he showed up--and then it made perfect sense! That is some skillful writing.

I called Catherine when I finished the book. When we were in junior high, we would obsess over Paula Danziger books and rewrite them starring boys we had crushes on. Trouble was, there were just so many Paula Danziger books, and none for older teens. I told Catherine that I wished we'd had your book back then--it was the one we'd been looking for and couldn't find!

Madfoot said...

Jennifer! You are not helping! Ugh, I feel a book coming on...

Madfoot said...

For them's that wants to see what she's talking about, head to Amazon and type in Amy Kaye. 3 books; the one she's referring to is called "The Real Deal: Focus On THIS." GAAH!

jennifer echols said...

Jennifer! You are not helping!

*eye roll*

the beige one said...

Ugh, I feel a book coming on...

So, uh, this is a bad thing?

Madfoot said...

I'm trying to procrastinate here! Nnnduh, it's only the name of my dumb BLOG!

the beige one said...

I'm wishing I had seen the visual for the "Nnnnduh!" comment

ThursdayNext said...

Well, JK Rowling was impovrished when she wrote Harry Potter; I bet she wasn't having the time of her life back then! So, I guess writing will always have that serious aspect to it?

Wow, I think I KNOW an Amy Kaye..or K...or Khey. Hmmmm.

T. said...

Good point about JK Rowling. I think that not everyone who ends up with the same result has the same process for getting there. That goes for whether it's solving math, creating a computer program or writing a book. I think you should be happy if you get good results and not compare your methods to others. If you think your methods make your final product suffer however, that's a different story.

Oh and I disagree about Pollack. That's just paint thrown across a canvas, I don't care what anyone says.

Madfoot said...

OK, then: Picasso. To the art world, genius. To the people who loved him, dickhead.

ThursdayNext said...

I am with t.
We are all Pollacks, he was just in the right art movement at the right time! :)

Starchild said...

But you know, most people have job angst. And they do it anyway. I'm not a good illustration, actually. But I do have angst. God knows I'm having it right now.
TOMORROW I have to go back to work after a 13-week leave. I took the leave ostensibly to have surgery, which I did, but REALLY because I couldn't stand to be there anymore. And you KNOW the good works i do, it's SUPPOSED to be so self-rewarding and all. But I guess i'm finally sick of getting paid NOTHING to be an f**king do-gooder all day, and having people say, "aaah, that's nice" (like they just saw a puppy) when I tell them what I do. But now I have to go back and face the music and make a decision: I got a job training dogs at 2 Petco stores, but there is a benefits issue, and I think I might have to have my icky lawyer job for a while more. It would be easier if I weren't good at being a lawyer. I'm less than 24 hours out and I still haven't decided whether to quit or what...

SO, anyway, ALL i'm trying to say it we ALL have job angst. You're not alone. You're with the majority on this one! :-)

the beige one said...

gads, when you procrastinate you're not fucking around