True Confessions

It’s all noble to say that you’re going offline to Finish the Fucker. I salute you all. You have dedication, talent, and good intentions. I have recently taken some time off to write, and once the feeling of joy and hope and self-righteousness passed, I got some work done and then I despaired.

Published writers talk about the difficulty they had finishing their books. They talk about struggling until they get their voice right. But so often you read their work (the good ones, the ones you drool over and try to emulate) and it just looks like shiny genius.

Surely they just waved their hands, their manservants brought them silver pots of coffee, and they ripped up the pages they wrote last night, stared moodily once out their windows to the expensively landscape grounds, and then started over again, and this time it was perfect.

In the trenches, we don’t know that we’re going to get published; we don’t know if we’re going to live through the process; and we sure as fuck don’t have manservants. Our problems seems impossible to get around. I have no idea how other people do it.

I can’t figure out how to shape a chapter to save my life. (They don’t teach you how to write chapters when you get an MFA in poetry.) And I’m naggingly aware that I need to strengthen my story. I have this gift of a certain amount of time to write and the talent to write pretty sentences. But I can’t fucking get it done. My lovely, optimistic friends tell me I’ll figure out, but I’m not so sure.

Let’s rip aside the veil. We all have existential angst, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m interested in specifics. Where does craft fail you? What do you wish someone had told you? Do you write shit that your offspring would laugh at? What do your day-to-day writing hardships look like?

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2 responses to “True Confessions

  1. I heard this interview, many years ago, on National Radio. And, yes, the interviewees were not writers, but musicians, but I think their comments apply across creative fields. They said, “you know, you just finally thrash out your recording, and you listen to it and you say “F—! This is just horrifying! How could we be so baaaad!” But then, ten years later, you come back and listen to it again, and you listen to it ad you say :F—! I’ll never be able to perform anything this good again!”

    Remind you of anything? Happens to me all the time. I don’t even remember some of my most beautiful arguments, or graceful sentences. I sometimes wonder if someone else wrote them.

    I don’t know if this means that our standards soften with time, or if it means that time gives us distance. I do think it means that the best strategy is (as I am sure you’ve said in the past), just stop your whingeing and get it done. Leave the introspection and the self doubt and just write.

    That was meant to help BTW.

  2. No matter that you don’t know where to start or how to set the mood of the scene, just start. Write. Get something down. The germs will be there. Then when you go back, you’ll have something to work with, something to mold, and things will be fine.

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