Sunday, January 21, 2007

Have you suffered enough?

There sometimes seems to be an almost pathological masochism in the writing community at large. This undercurrent of “you need to suffer more.” It can't be too easy. No part of it. Ever. That rough draft? By God...you better spend hours staring at the blank screen, agonizing over every single word.

You are a serious writer now, dammit! Forget that it's a rough draft and you just need to get the damn thing written first so you can fix it. No, it should take all day to write 500 words. If it doesn't, then you must be a hack.

You should read every classic ever written no matter how dry or dull. You must make yourself read it because this is the flogging portion of your punishment. It's what makes you a contender. Didn't you know? If you can read everything any academic has ever deemed “literary” and STILL want to write...congrats...you can go on to the next level.

Your level of masochistic glee must be great if you wish to be able to add to the great literature out there already. You should spend months upon months doing research and maps and outlines, texturing a world that you probably won't get around to writing the rough draft of because you spent so long acquiring notebooks of notes now too large to sludge through.

How can you write a novel, a narrative, when you have that many notes? No wonder you just spent three hours staring at the blank screen. You can't top your research with your fiction. So go along little darlings...suffer some more.

Don't enjoy the process of creation, don't just let it flow, don't read things you enjoy. Make everything a “task” a “chore” a “punishment.” Because writer...you must be punished. That's what it comes down to right? You feel guilty for liking it?

There are women who can't reach orgasm because they've been raised with such guilt toward the sexual act. Is the writing act like that for you? Can you not reach the orgasmic release of creation because it's naughty for you to be doing this while someone else is working long hours in a factory developing carpal tunnel? (By that logic, you should stop enjoying your food due to the children starving in Ethiopia.)

This may be a bitingly sarcastic post, but I think you should think about it. Do you feel guilty for liking it, or like you aren't a real writer if you like the process too much? On the other side of the fence, are you a prima donna who just wants to look like they are suffering? Should we get you one of those fainting couches?

I'm not trying to downplay genuine difficulties with writing. I'm asking you to examine yourself and think really hard if this is some kind of psychological block brought on to you by the fact that the writers around you might be trying to “suffer.” Will you join the hive mind, or will you smile politely and say: “Oh, yes, it's so terribly difficult” while smiling secretly about it?

There is no shame in enjoyment. If you like a book, read it. If you like the Classics READ them, enjoy them, with my blessing. If you don't, don't force yourself to choke them down so you can “suffer for your art.” If you aren't enjoying the process of writing why are you doing it?

I'm not saying that some days aren't hard. I'm not saying you should only write on the days you want to. I'm saying if you don't love it, the process, the act, then find a way to recapture it. But for God's sake, stop punishing yourself.

2 comments:

Karin Tabke said...

Zoe, some days are pure torture, and that's one of the perks! hah without the torture how can we torture our characters? As with any job, there are good days, bad days, perks and pitfalls that go along with it. The worse part about the business of writing for me is promoting. I detest it. I want only to write, blog hop, hang out with other writers, and write some more.

Zoe Winters said...

hehe Karin. There's that writer masochism we know and love! ;) No, seriously I get ya. If it's all happy happy joy joy, and that slips into the writing, yech. We SAY we want happyverse fiction, but we don't really. WE WANT THE ANGST! Bring it! :)

Also, blog hopping is part of promoting. It's in a small way getting your name out there. It all adds up :)

As to the perks...I haven't changed out of my PJs today. :)

I DID participate in writerly masochism yesterday, it was my punishment for being so flip about writer suffering. I procrastinated for many many hours before I was finally able to crank out some words.