For quite a while now I’ve had a love/hate relationship with writing that is heavily weighted toward ‘hate’. Perhaps hate is too strong a word but – let me put it this way. I think I may write only because I’m too unbalanced to do much of anything else.
People assume that I love what I do and that I’m thrilled to be living my dream. And it’s true, no question, I’m living my dream. This is what I’ve wanted for a long time, and I worked like a maniac, for years and years, to get it. It’s just that when people say things like “Don’t you love it?” I find I have to resist the impulse to break into hysterical laughter.
It’s more like two things.
I am completely unbearable when I am not writing. To myself and to others. Writing does somehow burn off something that is set too high in me and keeps me down to some manageable level. I have noticed this about quite a few writers I know. Writing is agony, but not writing is so, so much worse.
And on a more positive note – which I feel somewhat on because I just actually turned in something (my first short story, for the illustrated noir superhero anthology, THE DARKER MASK, out from Tor in January 2008, conceived and edited by Chris Chambers and Gary Phillips) – I do get a huge satisfaction out of FINISHING. As Dorothy Parker said, oft-quotedly: “I hate writing – I love having written.”
It is immensely satisfying to be able to hand someone a stack of pages – or, now, miraculously, a published book – and have them experience a STORY – an entire universe and characters and situations you dreamed up – that can evoke such an emotional response. That you can put your own dream into someone else’s head.
But there are undeniably satisfying moments along the way. And I’m thinking there might be more of those when you write a short story. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the writing of this thing – I think because the whole process is more concentrated and you cycle through the good parts of writing so much faster.
– There is that moment very very early on – well, really, what I mean is the BEGINNING – when you realize you do have a story – when you somehow get a picture of the whole thing in your head – not clear or in every detail, but you see a shape – characters, setting, a story arc, that you know is going to work (and that miraculously, you don’t seem to forget once you’ve had the vision).
– There is that moment when you have to write an opening sentence and you just do, and it’s perfect, far beyond any sentence you could have written if you’d actually put any thought into it.
– There is that moment when totally unexpectedly your main character speaks and you think – “Wow – who’s THAT??, because it sure as hell isn’t me” – and while you’re marveling at it she basically shoves you out of the way and takes over the story and you realize this thing is going to get done because she’s going to do it for you.
– There is that moment when a theme jumps out and provides a connecting thread that gives your story more depth than you had ever planned (and sometimes more depth than you even think you’re capable of)
– There are those moments of just purely enjoying the musicality of a sentence or the impact of an image.
– There is that moment that you think that you really could do something great here if only you had about a year to do the research required – and then just for the hell of it go look to see if you have a book on the subject in your bookcase or even just Google it and lo and behold, the precise fact you need to incorporate is on the first page you flip or click to.
– There is that moment that you write something – a character or a scene – that so startles you that you think you’re going to have to cut it because people will hate you for writing it – and then realize that if you have the balls to just be true about it, it will be the thing that makes the story.
And the truly great thing about writing a short story is that you do FINISH so much faster, so you get to the good part so much faster – which is being able to read your own work and realize what you were trying to say, even though you had no idea when you started.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that after so many years of often hating writing, it was nice to spend a few weeks feeling the love.
So what about you all? How are you feeling about writing these days? Love, hate… enough moments of the good stuff to keep you going?