A Good Writing Day

May 11, 2011

Following up on my Magical Words post from Monday (“Back to Basics, part VII:  Anatomy of a Butt-Kicking”)…

The butt being kicked that I referenced in the title was my own, and it was being kicked by the book I’m working on right now.  I was inspired to write that post by a friend here in town who mentioned that it might be helpful for aspiring writers to hear that those of us who do this professionally struggle mightily now and again.  Perhaps even more often than that.  (I should also note that this follow-up was inspired by another friend who noticed that I’ve been neglecting my blogs a bit in recent weeks.  Thank you, Jen.  Truly.)

The fact is, I struggle with my writing all the time.  Writing is hard.  This is one of the reasons I don’t buy into the idea of “Writer’s Block.”  The entire notion of writer’s block assumes that writing should be a smooth, fairly easy process, one that doesn’t include times when we struggle, when we stare at a blank screen for hours on end without getting anything done, when we backtrack a hundred times trying to get a passage or scene or character sketch just right.  Writing isn’t seamless.  It is always a struggle.  Sure, there are times when things come a bit more easily than others.  But it’s never easy.  If it was, everyone would do it.  What some people call writer’s block, I call writing.  The process isn’t pretty; it’s uneven, it’s bumpy, it’s messy.  That’s part of it’s glory.

There are several reasons why this current book is kicking my butt.  I won’t go into them all here — you can read the Magical Words post for that.  But the key reason, the one that has me reeling, is the last one I mention — life’s distractions.  Writing is particularly hard to do when other issues intrude on our creativity.  Life is complicated and messy and bumpy; it’s a lot like writing in that way.  (Or writing is a lot like it.  Whatever.)  I think it’s fair to say that this is true of any profession.  But what sets writing apart, what convinced me to revisit the issue today with this post, is that writing allows us to turn the tables on life.  If anything, my life has grown more distracting and difficult in just the few days since I wrote about my butt being kicked.  But I decided today that I was tired of being beaten up by my work.  And so I took those distractions and the emotions they churned up, and I channeled them into my work.  As it happens, my two main characters are having a rough time of it right now, and so the emotions with which I’m grappling weren’t all that different from the ones they were experiencing.

I had a good writing day today.  I got through a scene with which I’d been struggling.  I finished a chapter and passed the 30,000 word mark in the manuscript.  All good things.  This doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle again tomorrow.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t get my butt kicked again in the coming days.  That’s the nature of this beast I call a career.  But I feel like I’ve taken control of my creative process again, and that’s put a smile on my face.

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2 Responses to “A Good Writing Day”

  1. Rob said

    David,

    Thank you for such a brave and honest post. I was immediately struck by the way you describe writing as a hard process and thought about how much of what you say applies to science research and any real learning process. In fact I read it out loud to my children and had a brief discussion about how anything really worth doing requires real sustained effort, which is something I see lacking in so many young people.

    It is real pleasure to count you among my friends.

  2. davidbcoe said

    The feeling is mutual, and I’m grateful to you for the comment. I totally agree — my struggles as a writer mirror those of anyone involved in creative endeavors, and though it’s not usually thought of in this way, I believe that all the sciences are incredibly creative disciplines.

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