Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The Writing Process - what it's really like

Is writing a chore or a pleasure? If you are anything like me, then it’s a little of both. At the moment, it seems more like a chore, having to churn out the words, not knowing whether the product will be (a) any good from a literary point of view and (b) any good from a commercial point of view. I’m pleased to discover I’m not alone – there are some fascinating testimonies from a number of writers in today’s Guardian.

There was also an article in Sunday's Observer (in the travel section) on people who have ‘taken the plunge and escaped the rat race’. I thought I was doing that when I decided to throw in my well-paid job and move out into the country to become a ‘proper’ writer. But, like anything, it’s a business. For me, it’s the commercial aspect that makes writing a chore. But, if you are not writing for your readers, who are you writing for? In the Guardian piece, A L Kennedy compares writing to sex – when you do it for pleasure it’s a nice thing; when you do it for cash it’s ‘probably less fun’. I suppose that means that, if you’re writing only for yourself, you’ll probably go blind . . .

6 comments:

Eryl Shields said...

I recently read a review of a book (I think it was in the Guardian Christmas list) whose main premise was that once you begin to think of your art as work rather than play it becomes a chore. And this can lead to stagnation.

I have fiercely resisted sending my work out to magazines for fear of being benignly steered towards the commercial, but now needs must and I will either have to get a job or get published. So, last week I sent three stories off to a local magazine, my first foray into the world of publishing.

Do you have a strong idea of who your readers are Paul? I can't imagine who might want to read what I write, but I have my best friend in the back of my mind and aim to entertain, and communicate with, her.

Paul said...

Eryl - I think that's right about writing becoming a chore when art becomes work, although thankfully it's not always like that! I was once advised by a successful novelist not to rush into print if I wanted to continue to enjoy my writing, but I think she may have been going through the 'chore' phase at the time.

Good luck with stories you've sent out. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

For myself, I do tend to have a vague picture of my reader, depending on the market I'm writing for. Some of the larger magazines provide really helpful marketing datasheets for their advertisers which describe their target readership. Other times I try to write with my other half in mind - she's a very discerning reader and hard to please, so if she likes a story I feel more confident in sending it out.

Mary Witzl said...

Here is the part that struck me: "self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation..." Yep, I've been there and done that. There are rare moments of pure exhilaration when I can't imagine doing anything more wonderful than writing. And then there are long, horrible stretches where I wonder what the hell I'm doing, and whether anyone will ever want to read it, especially if they actually have to pay for it.

Kanani said...

Ha! Very funny, Paul!
I seem to be taking forever with my final draft of the novel. Ugh. I'm in a tight spot and took a non-writing job just to pay some bills and it came to an abrupt end when the CEO closed the entire division down after only 3 weeks.
Talk about a waste of time --but mainly because I have no money and the other part is it disrupted my writing!

Paul said...

Mary - 'self-disgust' and 'disorientation' pretty much describes how I feel at the moment when I look at the mess that is my current work in progress! I think I'll be taking the weekend off to try to come back at it with a new perspective next week . . .

Kanani - Bad news about the non-writing job. Sometimes it's hard to look on the bright side, but at least you have more time for writing. Not much consolation, I know.

Kanani said...

Ah, it's good to be back. I've involved in war as of late, and I am making rounds of the writing blogs.
Re-examined this. And thought a bit more.
Writing...it's a bit of both. It's a chore when I have to edit, a joy when the writing is going smoothly.

I think blogging is mostly a narcissistic pleasure, I mean...I'm writing for me and if people happen to like it they come on the ride. So in that way it's nice.

But the paid stuff --well, it's more like solving a puzzle, really. Is this what I mean, and will I be able to "tweak" so it appeals to the readers --meaning, doesn't piss everyone off. Or should I worry about this? These are just some of the questions that come up once in awhile.

Hope all is well!