Last week I had ‘a week’. Not a bad week, just a frustrating week, the result of which had me at one point declaring to myself (because no one else was around), that I did not want to be a writer. Being a writer was a terrible thing to want to be, and anyone who has ever considered the possibility of pursuing any kind of writing dreams, should have someone sit down with them and tell them in no uncertain measure, what a terrible idea it is.
Now I can’t tell you what was the precedent to this dramatic life choice (to be honest, I don’t actually know, but it might have something to do with blatant overuse of semi-colons, in particular, and the lack of skill in perfecting prose in general). What I can tell you is that in my angst I wrote a very ranty blog post, the likes of which, I very wisely hesitated to publish.
Let’s all just take a moment to thank past Jess for saving the internet from that load of rubbish.
Thankfully I have since emerged from the funk, due in large to a perfectly-timed message at church on Sunday, which I’m also not sharing because some things are just for me. 🙂 However it did get me thinking, ‘Why do I write? Do I actually want to be a writer for some quantifiable reason? Or is it just something I do?’ Because in my angst filled hate against the written word, I did raise some perfectly valid points. Such as:
Writing is full of competition.
All the time, you’re competing with all the other people who have worked just as hard, just as long, and have sweated blood over the perfect synonym for… plagiarism — or some other word that is vitally important at the time of typing. I don’t like being competitive; I am, but I don’t like it. But every short story competition, every article or manuscript proposal is coming up against someone else’s, and not everyone can win. It’s a little disheartening.
Writing is obsessive.
It takes up every cell in your brain begging you to decide what word to use, how to describe that look she just gave him, or if a sentence fragment is the best stylistic tool to use right now. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: the week before last I got lost on how a room smelt, and how to describe how the smell of disinfectant burns her nostrils; how it eats away at her like the bounds of her grief. The inescapable fumes of sorrow and despair, that need to be communicated perfectly, because the smell is important!
And then, once I got past the smell, I got stuck on the sound.
How does it sound when she walks down that long, unforgiving corridor; what sound do her shoes make on the tiles? Is the sound of her footsteps as hollow as the beat of her empty heart?
Are they loud and demanding, when inwardly she’s screaming for silence?
Do her feet tap melodically, with the rhythm of the saddest song she knows?
I obsess over characters; one is too perfect, the other too annoying. I over-analyse paragraphs — should they be edited or removed? How much description is too much? How much is not enough? There are too many speech tags here, but not enough there. Should text messages have realistic errors or emoticons? What if no one ever sees the reference to chapter twelve that is hidden in chapter three, and they become wasted words?!
Writing is uncertain.
You can do your best, and have sweated blood over a keyboard, and yet an empty inbox can slay you faster than a formal rejection ever will. It makes you wonder what’s the point?
‘What if’, ‘what about…’, and ‘what on earth are you saying?’ Questions that get thrown about in all their various forms every time I open up Scrivener and try to make it all sound right. No wonder I made that sweeping declaration that being a writer is an exercise in futility. No wonder I had ‘a week.’
The thing is, though, sometimes you need to ask yourself those tough questions (and no I’m not talking about if it’s important to the scene that everyone knows what colour pants your main character is wearing), but rather: Do I like what I’m doing? Is it worth the hard work? Can I actually do this well enough to feel that I’ve done it justice? If I walked away, how would my life look?
If I published that ranty blog post and decided that I was done, would it make things any better? Because a written declaration to announce my intentions to stop writing, is somewhat of an oxymoron, and led me to the only conclusion that blog post could ever make: Even if I don’t want to be a writer, I am. I do.
Despite the obsession, perfection and the possible rejection, I write. For reasons, I don’t need to share; with a purpose that may one day be revealed. Ranty posts are well and good and always have their place. But I’ll take finding the purpose over frustration any day. Some weeks are just that; weeks. Not good, not bad, just forcing you to ask questions about why you do what you do.
And maybe, if you’re really lucky, how many semi-colons you can use to answer it. 😉