The hardest thing about writing
I write. It’s my paying day job, the way I fill the downtime hours and I’ve upped the pressure by telling myself I have it in me to be funny. On a stage. In front of strangers.
Writing isn’t tough. Making it any good is more like work, but again, not beyond reach. What has proven harder is knuckling down and doing it in the first place.
At the other end of the summer, I fired off a (seventh) draft of what I hope will become my next novel to an editor. It came back with notes and (much as expected) suggestions of how to make it better. Inspired, I set to work, and then the usual thing happened … I found other ways to fill my time. Excuses. Reasons not to write. Show me a writer who doesn’t procrastinate and I’ll show you a pair of pants on fire.
Loving the work
It’s weird … because when I write, I lose myself. What was meant to be toil, turns into eight happy hours wrapped in my world. I love what makes the page. When dragged from the screen by Mr Fanning, I’m wide-eyed with wonder, keen to tell him how this time I’ve cracked it. My new book will win awards.
The next chapter – the one I’m doing my best to avoid – is the ‘turning point’. The exciting bit (for a writer) where you turn the story on its head and move into ‘the controlled landing phase’. The part where I get to draw together multiple threads and land the plane.
As always, it’s easier to polish existing chapters. Rewriting dialogue, picking a better word, fixing faults. Editing on the fly is how writers fail. It’s how they fail to finish. How they fail to get published. How they fail to be writers. I know all of this, but it’s a habit I find hard to break.
Only when you’ve completed a first draft should you look back. Until then, you write. You accept it’s not your best work and allow for plot holes and poor turns of phrase. You accept it’s not even funny. Or plausible. There’s time to tackle this later.
Writing standup comedy seems to be much the same. There’s huge temptation to edit the life out of what I’ve written. Just as with a novel, I’m learning that I need to keep going until I reach ‘the end’. I’ve been taught to ‘rant’ about my chosen topic into a recording device with my conscious mind turned down low. It’s only by doing this that any ‘comedy brain’ gets to take over and produce a ‘left turn’. It might lead to one rough pebble in a bag of grit, but that’s all I need. At the end of my course, I’ll have three minutes of comedy to perform. Twelve jokes at most.
It seems that with any sort of writing, until you’ve done the groundwork, it isn’t worth your time. Perfection isn’t part of it. That comes with editing. Without a complete train of thought, you’re lost.
I suppose the hardest thing about writing isn’t starting something. It’s finishing it.