Thursday, June 28, 2018

More Writers on Writing, or Misery Loves Company

I'm having trouble with my work in progress. I'm always having trouble with my work in progress, whatever novel that may be and whenever I am working on it. I was moaning to myself about it recently, as I tend to do, when it occurred to me that when it comes to writing, I'm quite the whiney little creature and have been from the beginning. I think writing is difficult. The reason I think so is because I can never get my stories to turn out on the page as wonderfully as they are in my head, so I just keep whittling and trying this and trying that. Consequently I'm a slow writer, especially compared to many many of my friends and colleagues who shall remain nameless because I am eaten up with envy.

You'd think after ten books I'd have figured out that eventually I will make the appropriate choices and everything will work out. But no, I live in fear that this is the book that's going to defeat me at last. So when I get into this tiresome state of mind, it helps me to remember that far more successful authors than I have also wallowed in doubt, and yet the muses somehow triumph.

Allow me to share a few of the words of wisdom I have recently uncovered which have given me hope, perspective, and comfort about the art:

I like that no less a luminary than Thomas Mann said that, "a writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people." Right on, Brother Thomas.

My new book will be set in the 1920s, so during my research I'm continually coming across quotes by Dorothy Parker. Most of her genius quips have to do with other aspects of life than writing, (one I particularly identify with is, "I've never been a millionaire but I know I would be just darling at it.") but anyone who knows me knows that one of my writing mantras is, "I hate writing. I love having written."

Anne Lamott's book on writing, Bird by Bird, is also a lovely essay about life. But she does look at the craft of writing with an unsentimental eye when she says, "Writing is easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat." However she does give me hope when she notes that, ""big sloppy imperfect messes have value."

Another of my favorites is Somerset Maugham, who said, "The great American novel has not only already been written, it has already been rejected," which ought to give hope to anyone going through the agony of trying to get published. Rejection after rejection still doesn't mean you aren't good. Sadly if you want to know what to do about it, Maugham hits the nail on the head with, "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." So good luck.

But you finally struggle through and get the book written, you persevere through rejection and find a publisher, and after all your work and suffering your book is released into the wide world and your labor of love is out of your hands at last. And then? I'll let journalist Murray Kempton have the last word:

"A critic is someone who enters the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded."


Sybil Johnson said...

Ah, Donis, I'm with you on this one. Writing is hard and I'm a slow writer as well. Love all the quotes.

Chris Miriable said...

"There are three stages to writing: Being unable to start it, being stuck in the middle, and being unable to finish it." -- Jonathan Morris

Triss said...

Mid bookl blues? Oh,yes! Thanks for this very timely essay. We are not alone, right?