I began this blog as an antidote to cheery self-promoting blogs a billion fucking years ago (in blog time anyway). Today’s post is in direct contrast with the writing articles I’m so tired of that establishes far too much context. Yes we all know what it’s like to write. We all know what it’s like to write alone. (We are always alone.) We all know the eight thousand cliches about writing, just tell me what I want to know about agents. Jesus H. Christ. OK rant over.
Anyway, I wake at dawn, sleep-walk to my computer, try to say something intelligent, and then what? I write something so trite that my writing brain grinds to a halt. I kill my own ability to write at least once a day. Why do I do this?
The only saving grace is that I am learning pattern recognition. Oh yeah I did that thing again. So I back up. What is the soul-killing sentence/paragraph this time? Once I identify it I have a choice. Delete or move? Can I write again after I delete/move? Yes? Well done! No? Repeat.
I delete my way out of a hole, I “NEED TRANSITION” my way out of a hole, I revise my way out of a hole. I write some more. A strange feeling of self-esteem wafts through the room. Then bam. I’m in a fucking hole again. My writing life is not unlike New England roads after the spring thaw.
By my second hole, it’s time to feed the dogs and do paying work. Someone has to fund my therapy bills. There must be a better way to do this.
What’s your worst metaphor for writing?
Burnt toast. Because. Just because.
Okay, that’s not it, but to speak in support of your rant: I read a lot of blog posts about how important it is that I write my memoir, how people need to read it, and how I will heal myself by getting my Truth out there. And it’s not, they don’t, and it will be like ripping out stitches from a belly wound. Why pretend? Because, as my MFA thesis adviser liked to say, “Everybody’s mother died.” Mary Karr wrote a funny and insightful memoir about her mother attempting to ax her. Sherman Alexie wrote a selfish, angry one about his mother vacuuming in the middle of the night. Even good writers should mostly shut up, because even when they think they have a story, and people will buy anything, some stories do not help us grow or get over anything, they are self-justifying rants. There. I’m done now.
Okay, not quite. Fiction creates a world with imaginary people so that I can find out what matters, how we are broken, and how we put ourselves back together. What is that? Not burnt toast. Chocolate pudding with a pinch of salt to counter the sweet.
I love reading about how other people feel about their mother dying, as long as they are insightful writers. (I also love reading rants.) Writing a memoir has not been healing, and people don’t need to read it. I’d be pleased if someone did though.
“My writing life is not unlike New England roads after the spring thaw.” Hahaha! I have to hope that the more we do it, the better we get. Right?
Also what’s YOUR worst metaphor?
“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”
― Oscar Wilde
My writing life is like cleaning out the cat’s litter tray, you know there’s always going to be something there, it might even make a mark on the page, but it’ll probably turn out to be just another load of shit we’ve all seen before.
And y’know―and I think this might actually be treasonous for a British person to say―I’ve never really liked much of Wilde’s work anyway.
Many Brits of his time didn’t like him anyway, although for different reasons.
When I wrote the above, and before I hit [Send], it was arranged in nice, neat paragraphs. Now if that isn’t sadly appropriate, I don’t know what is.
Have you found your way out of that hole yet?