Saturday, July 31, 2010

What’s the Worst Thing about Being a Writer?

I hate writing, but I love having written.” -  Dorothy Parker

This week I look at the dark side of writing. For me, the worst thing about writing is when I can’t do it. Generally this manifests in one of two ways. In one, I have the desire to write but I am in a place where it is inconvenient to do so. This may happen when I am driving, engaged in a social event that requires my attention, or just as my head hits the pillow. A poem or a story pops into my head, along with a longing to drop everything so I can write. It is like unrequited love; I feel the longing but I can’t do much about it.

The other frustration about writing is when I just can’t think of words. This week I hit this type of wall. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is maddening. It’s like I had a stroke and I can’t find words. The remedy for this is to write anyway, and to ignore the form. For example, say I want to describe my experience climbing a mountain, but I am plagued by aphasia. I can start writing and labor over every word, but this usually end as being quite unproductive—much like a scratch on a record—I keep saying the same thing over again. It works best if instead, I plow ahead. I might write, “The mountain was xxx, and I loved breathing the cool air. My heart was beating fast, as I climbed the xxx path.” The x’s represent words I can’t think of and clearly the writing is crap. However, this method keeps me moving, and eventually I get past the stuck part. I can always clean up the style on the rewrite.

What don’t you like about being a writer?

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