Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Painful Illness

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell, Why I Write; 1947

I typed a lot of words on my work-in-progress today, most of which I’ll either have to take out later or totally rework. But I did it, by damn, and I’m hoping I dug out a lot of slag that has a piece or two of gold in it that I can use later.

When I’m on a roll, I can produce several usable pages in a day, but today there were only one or two paragraphs that I feel confident about.

Some days I can slog along quite handily, but there are days like today when everything I write feels like pure schlock. When that happens, it causes me great agony and despair that I can’t whip up the will to do what needs to be done. I have a bad attitude.

On such days I sit at my desk for an hour staring at a pad of paper, or at the computer with my fingers poised over the keyboard, and … nothing. It’s not even that I can’t think of anything to write. I am always writing in my head, and have done for as far back as I can remember.

All I wanted to do today is clean something, or garden or dust or cook. Brawny tasks which take only muscle and no brilliant turns of phrase. But I have to persevere. So much of writing is just grunt work. Sit and type it out, choose the best way to say this or that, watch the repetition, find the right word, the right sentence.

I never know why one day is better than another when it comes to writing. Why was today so unsatisfactory?

I know! I can always blame a bad writing day on my sensitive nature. Earlier this evening I spent half an hour reading the news online and now I want to lie upon the couch and press the back of my hand to my forehead until my soul is soothed. People are capable of such awful things, and there is no sense to be made of it. Just the titles of the articles gave me the vapors.

Yes, that must be why I had such am unsuccessful day — the news, or the weather, or the stars. It certainly can't be my fault, because I did everything required of me, and yet I couldn't produce anything brilliant, or excellent, or particularly adequate.

But I can see that there is something good going on here. There's a story here that I want to tell, so what else is to be done but try and tell it? Tomorrow morning I’ll get up, invoke the gods and pray for intervention, sit myself down at the computer, and try, try again.

1 comment:

Eileen Goudge said...

Well said, Doris. I think we all struggle with similar issues. I wish there were a way to reboot my brain when it's spent from a day of writing. If I could recharge it like I do my iPhone, I could easily triple my output.