Friday, 13 April 2012
The ?Joy of Writing
It is however unusual for us to talk about our own writing. Reading other people's, yes. But hardly ever do we talk about the process of our own fiction-making. Agents, editors, money, yes; creation, no.
However, recently I have and it was interesting to hear one person say how much (s)he hated the actual business of writing. It set me thinking. We all know that it can be difficult, that there are days when nothing comes right - or even comes at all.
We all know about the problems that the publishing industry is experiencing currently, and about Internet trolls giving our books horrible reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, sometimes in order to promote their own. We know about the brave Oscar-losers' face we sometimes have to adopt when we experience the opposite of Schadenfreude at our writer friends' successes.
But hating the act of writing itself? I had to think about that.
When it's going well, it's like nothing else in the world, except for ecstatic sex or maybe flying. (NB: Do not try this at home - it rarely happens this way). You have to believe that what you are writing is the best thing since Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Proust and Margaret Atwood all rolled into one. (And that's just the first page!).
But here's the mysterious thing. I have experienced writing on a roll and I have known days when it was like pulling teeth from an unanaesthetised crocodile, but how I feel while I'm doing it has no influence at all on how the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the whole book itself turns out - none at all!
Watching a writer at work is about as interesting as the traditional pastime of waiting while paint dries, which is presumably why Visconti chose to turn Thomas Mann's Gustav von Aschenbach from a writer into a composer when he made Death in Venice. It gave him a great soundtrack too; what would be the writer's equivalent of the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony? From what Facebook tells me, more writers listen to Lady Gaga.
Still, the writer who was lamenting the pain of the job is a good one, whose end results are very satisfactory. It's the process that is agony, not the end product.
So here's a question for those of you who write: is it pleasure or pain, agony or ecstasy?