Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In Which we write the Most Emdashes Ever

Sometimes I think I can’t be a real writer because I don’t actually want to write most of the time. I read interviews with people who say well of course I feel compelled to write at least an hour every day, every writer does, and I think they do? Do they not have Netflix?

I like to follow Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog posts and tweets because she freely admits to having announced that she was going to write a novel and then doing absolutely nothing for seven years. This is more my style.

(Though I’d never dream of making a public announcement about it. It drives me crazy when people ask what I’m doing these days and I can’t think of a way to avoid admitting the awful truth—I, um, I am trying to be a writer. Not sure it counts if you’re not published yet. So I’m not a writer, I’m just trying to be. I also clean rooms at a hotel.)

When I sit down to write, when the excuses have run out, when my internet connection has failed with only three minutes left of an episode of Doctor Who and I have stopped screaming and throwing things at the router—when I actually open the document that contains my sci-fi novel or my zombie screenplay or my chick-flick screenplay depending on which one I’ve completely, utterly and permanently given up on most recently (let’s be honest, the zombie story is going nowhere, it’s time for the secure delete on that one)—when I look at the page, and begin reading what I did yesterday, and realize that I’m actually going to do it, to try to write again—

It’s really very hard to express the feeling that descends. Not despair—there’s more drama in despair. Not resignation—there would be more productivity with true resignation.

It’s sort of the feeling one imagines you would get after being reconditioned by Big Brother.

The Winston after Room 101 feeling.

And then I write.



  1. Oh, alt+0151!—how we love thee! I'm also a fan of alt+0183 and, straying from punctuation, let us not forget alt+0230. Nothing like a sprinkling of the exotic ascii to liven up one's writing.

    One might think of your dystopian reprogramming as actually encouraging, a necessary masochism. If you were only writing when you want to, then it's merely a hobby. No matter how much those people-who-are-obviously-comfortable-enough-to-no-longer-have-to-care say "do what you love and the world will be roses," one's job is work—that which must be done—which inevitably contains an element of toil: pulling thorns and thistles from the earth. If writing now carries more connotations of work than hobby, then there's hope that it could become your vocation, and not just something to fill the time pleasantly when you have a few moments.

    Revel in the fact that writing has reprogrammed you and doesn't just hang around pretending to care and offering you tracts on "How to Overthrow Big Brother" or "3 Novels to a Better You."

    1. Good point. Work is always work. And I suppose if it's not hard, you're not pushing yourself enough.