Monday, March 29, 2010

The Tyranny of Words

Current Reading: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Inspirational Quote: "If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word." -- Margaret Atwood

I'm experiencing writer's block, although I hesitate to qualify it as that. Events have conspired to make my daily chaining to the keyboard both short and frustrating. I can write words, but they're all wrong and I'm angry at them and so I consign them to the bit bucket with little remorse and a "so there!" attitude.

Serves them right.

I'm considering buying a laptop/notebook/netbook so that I can take my frustration on the road and pound the keys away from distractions at a time of my convenience. However, I believe this is seeking an external solution to an internal problem and that never works. I'm also considering taking a few days off my paying job in order to get my head back in order (it's like playing Tetris with gray matter). That may also be seeking an external solution to an internal problem, but it has the advantage of allowing me to sleep in and take long walks to clear my head.

Career-oriented writing requires a tremendous amount of both courage and confidence at all stages.

You need confidence in your ability to tell a story, to put the right words in the right order to instill in a reader the full range of emotions that make for a satisfying read. You need that confidence in order to set down the first draft.

After that, you need courage to cast aside all your partiality and look at your work with a critical eye. You have to face up to its imperfections, and you have to commit to doing something about them. You have to have the courage to take something you've made and rip it to pieces.

Once it's in pieces, you have to have confidence that you can rebuild it better than it was.

Then, of course, you have to do it all again until you are confident that it is a good as you can make it.


Susan Quinn said...

Do not undervalue the netbook. I've had one for almost a year now, and it's created a fantastic ability to write anywhere/when the ability/mood strikes.

You are so right that writing takes courage and confidence. Courage to start, confidence to finish.

One of the hardest things I've discovered along the way was the courage to write badly. Like, REALLY BADLY. That rough draft, though you may feel it belongs in the bit bucket, needs to be free of the internal editor so that you CAN come back later and more freely shape it to be what you want. I find it much easier to edit something that is really rough, because obviously it needed massive changes, so if I half of it falls under the delete key, it's all good, right?

Chin up!

And good luck finding your way back in the writing saddle!

Ulysses said...

Yes, it's my editorial mind getting in the way of my creative one. I hate that. Marshaling my forces in order to shut it up is proving difficult, but I know I'll get there.

What kind of netbook do you have?

Susan Quinn said...

It's tough to smack down that internal (infernal?) editor, but it must be done! :)

Mine is a HP Mini 1000, bought last May. I'm sure there are newer/improved ones now - the feature I would look for in a new one: full Word capability (vs. Works, which has less edit features).

Good Luck!

Ulysses said...

Thanks for the info. I use OpenOffice for my writing, which has more features than I need and the advantage of being free.