My concentration, that is. Shot. I bounce from project to project. Yesterday I eked out almost 400 words on one novel, the day before that it was 1200 on another. I outlined a short story, but can't manage to write it in a way that even makes me want to re-read it. My obsession with professionalism, with writing every day with discipline and consistency and finishing my projects, is starting to seem laughable.
Ghaaa. Maybe we're meant to take vacations between big, soul-baring, world-changing (at least theoretically) writing projects? Or maybe I'm just too distracted by dueling piano bars, searching for the perfect Indian food, and my all-too-practical Master's degree in Finance.
Well. No one ever promised me a rose garden, as they say.
That's my question of the day: Do you enjoy writing?
I read a few interesting articles today. First, Nathan Bransford, a literary agent, wrote this on his blog: Writers are dreamers, and dreamers tend to daydream about the future while concocting wildly optimistic scenarios that involve bestsellordom, riches, and interviews with Ryan Seacrest. In doing so they forget to enjoy the present. I call this the "if only" game. You know how it goes: if only I could find an agent, then I'll be happy. When you have an agent, then it becomes: if only I could get published, then I'll be happy. And so on. The only way to stay sane in the business is to enjoy every step as you're actually experiencing it. Happiness is not around the bend. It's found in the present. Because writing is pretty great -- otherwise why are you doing it? Linked on his blog, nathanbransford.blogspot.com.
But then I also read this article from the Guardian, where authors who write for a living talked about how they felt about writing. And their milage certainly varied.
For instance, John Banville: "The struggle of writing is fraught with a specialised form of anguish, the anguish of knowing one will never get it right, that one will always fail, and that all one can hope to do is 'fail better', as Beckett recommends. The pleasure of writing is in the preparation, not the execution, and certainly not in the thing executed. The novelist daily at his desk eats ashes, and if occasionally he encounters a diamond he is likely to break a tooth on it. Money is necessary to pay the dentist's bills."
and cheerful Amit Chaudhuri: "Writing novels is no fun; nor is, generally speaking, reading novels. Reading people writing about novels is not always fun, either, because relatively little of this kind of writing is any good. Then there's the group of people who don't enjoy being novelists, to which I probably belong; whose lives are at once shaped and defined by, and to some extent entrapped in, the act of writing fiction."
I think I enjoy writing. But sometimes, I just don't want... it's so much effort and so much frustration.
Do you enjoy writing? And if so, what do you enjoy about it?
I went back to my writers' group last night after a year away. We meet in the upstairs of a sweet coffee shop in a distinctly sketchy part of town - definitely the kind of place where you carry your keys in your hand on your way to the car and lock the doors behind you as soon as you're in. But then, I am also a little paranoid.
HOWEVER, walking through the Valley of Sketch is hardly the point. The writers' group had changed composition from last year, with a few people I still know and more that I did not. I guess there is a natural ebb and flow - the group gets too big, not everyone gets to read in the time allotted for the meeting, people drop out and the group gets smaller, and then more people come.
I read chapter seven of SHARDS. I got some good feedback: great dialogue, need more visual description, love the characters, the female character in the scene could be more hostile and angry. I tend to downplay the female characters a little, I guess, because I don't want them to be just another irrational, stereotypical woman. My characters are a little neurotic and quirky, but honestly, that is how I see everyone. If you met my family, this would make sense.
I enjoyed the other readings too. There was a pretty rousing chapter of an action-adventure novel, a beautiful piece about observing gulls on the beach (the kind of detailed description that I don't think I could ever settle down enough to write myself), a chapter from the memoir of a former priest who left the church with a nun he had fallen in love with... overall, just good stuff. It's fun to hear such a variety of stories in one place.
The problem with writers' groups (for me) is they are most effective for short pieces - a story, a scene, a poem - something that can be read in your fifteen-minute spot of fame that week. Several of us are reading novels, in excerpts, which allows you to polish a scene (and ensures it stands on its own), but it doesn't give you a good sense of the overall flow of your piece. I have some friends reading the novel for fun, but I wish I could get a good literary critique of it.
I do love the group, though. Writing is so solitary, it's fun to socialize and talk about your writing. In small doses, of course... eventually you have to shut up and get back to the keyboard. :)
Obviously, I lied and, after my last post, promptly disappeared again. I've spent the last few weeks enjoying all sorts of lovely food, learning to snowboard, getting manicured/pedicured/massaged and generally girlified again, wandering around the beautiful city of San Diego and exploring happy hours throughout the entire SoCal region - as well as bonding with my gorgeous and fun husband.
Which brings me to a question. I read a magazine article once that suggested that writing was not for the young. In it, the author suggested that you should first concentrate on living your life, observing and coming to understand human beings and their interactions with each other and their environment, accumulating experiences. Then, not only well-stocked with ideas but also with a more mature understanding of how people act and interact, THEN you are ready to sit down and create fiction.
But, while I think that more mature writing is probably better writing, I think there is much to be said for writing at every stage in your life. Because the story that you will tell now, this week, this month, this year, is a different story than the one you would write in the future. Now there's a particular thought nagging at you, a particular bit of youthful angst; or a newspaper story you read this morning and will have forgotten by next Tuesday; or a bit of dialogue you overhear at work, that will find its way into THIS story, but only if you write it now, before you change. Because we are always changing, if only in tidbits and dabs.
Sometimes, however, I think maybe there's something to be said for living now, writing later. Mostly when I find myself joyously overwhelmed by life in the moment, and not so eager to return to my keyboard...