Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Poisonous Tedium of Taping

I sat down to write yesterday after months of not writing. It sucked.

(That could be everything I have to say about this, "it sucked," but as a blogger I'll never use two words when I could use a couple hundred.)

I didn't write very much, and every word felt terrible. I came up with a plan so I can try again today, but it was one of those days when I wonder if I should put down my pen, burn my notebooks, and move to Tajikistan and become a goat-herder just to avoid the shame of having written those pages. This may be slightly overdramatic, but really, it felt terrible.

In the evening I shook off my drama and started wondering why, what was going wrong. Maybe it was the story, I thought, maybe the story was no good. Maybe, if I tried writing a different story, I'd write a better draft. After sleeping on it, this sounds like nonsense to me. Almost definitely, the problem isn't the story, but that my gears are rusty and ill-used after months of revising my work and reading other people's work. Besides, virtually all first drafts are shitty. Perhaps the story is no good, but there's no way to know that for sure until the story's written, and it's much too early to give up, because then I'll just start and screw up something else instead.

The kernel of the idea still feels good, but writing the beginning of the story was...ulgh. I had no interest in witnessing these characters at the start of their journey. Plus, the mechanics of writing felt so tedious - to work in descriptions of these men, to write dialogue that displayed their characters, to say where we are in the world without saying straight-up where we are in the world. It's like painting a room. You ever done that? You have to put masking tape on everything first so you don't paint over your air vents and cabinets and baseboards and windows. Taping is bloody annoying, and if you don't do it carefully you make big trouble for yourself, and (in my experience) it takes longer than painting and feels like it's not the real work. That's what all this is to me: the precise way that the first few pages of a story have to be handled, and the mechanics of literary writing, which entails writing around your elbow to get to your thumb. Taping. Necessary, satisfying to rip down, seriously irritating to accomplish.

Oh HELL no 

I wanted to paint. I wanted to skip right to what happens to them at the climax. So my plan for today is to do that, write the middle, and see what comes of it. Maybe I'll find something about these characters that I enjoy enough to pump a few thousand words out of them, or maybe it'll turn out that this belongs as a flash. Maybe I'll discover that I didn't write that terribly, I just wrote terribly compared to the prose of professional writers that I've been reading of late.

No, scratch that. I'm pretty sure these pages are crap. But there are always more pages.

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