I’m not going to talk about writing as it relates to all that techogarbage bullshit. I’m going to talk about writing as it exists for most writers in their daily lives in 2017, without mentioning all that technogarbage bullshit. Ok, now swear with me reader/writer: I will, every time I write, put away my technogarbage bullshit.
Writing in 2017
I’m working a part time job, living at home, and going to college. I am a writer. I work on a novel, try to read as much as I can, and most of the time I’m tired. I feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day, and I feel like I don’t spend enough of them writing. I didn’t write this to complain, but to lay out the facts. If this applies to you, you’re not alone. Also most people can’t earn a living by just writing, and it’s pretty much always been that way, and it’ll probably always be that way.
When my will to write is strong enough I think about writing and the idea of being a writer I fetishize it, which puts it at a distance. I picture what I call ‘all the great writers’ but is an incredibly limited selection of the people who have written well. Once I get to my computer it’s very hard going when I write. It’s like I’m holding my breath. Each trip on the page is like having someone hold my head underwater. I think part of it is because I know that when you commit a word to a sentence, and a sentence to a new paragraph it’s making a choice which you cannot unmake. You would think one might say “Oh, well anything can be rewritten”, but most of the time there are many fundamental aspects of a given piece that probably won’t be changed after you’ve started.
Usually when I get to the keyboard, It’s like I’m frozen solid. I can’t do anything and I’m moving so slowly, and each idea only comes like a hard fought shit: I’m totally word-constipated. I also hate that about my writing, that I’m so tied to the scatalogical (shit-related), so naturally tied to crassness and vulgarity, but not even refined or sophisticated in my grotesquery. I also don’t write enough to really be called a writer. I’m basically a phony marketing tool for a writer who might hopefully show up at some point some day. Until then, I’ll keep working on my novel. I just keep writing it slowly but surely. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. This is how most writers feel, this is what we tell ourselves: that we’ll never have time. But is any of this true? How many of the writers you know really have time?
And that’s the other thing: there’s nobody else around. Or if there is someone else around, it’s rare that they’ll have anything truly enlightening to say, and that you’ll have some ‘aha’ moment where things have been unlocked for you. Nobody ever really makes you a better writer except for some workshop, and workshops are great, but they’re not really able to improve you in some sort of mind-blowing way, except to make you write a lot, but even then, sometimes writing ‘a lot’ can yield much less productive results than consistently writing ‘a little’. For one thing, when you write a lot you tend to create more good stuff, but you also create a lot of bad. Now that’s obvious to anyone, but where it gets tricky is in the editing. How can I lose this bad stuff and keep the good? How can I cut out the unnecessary stuff?
But the sometimes the alternative approach to this ‘scatography’ (shit-writing) is to write very very slowly, and very very carefully. This process feels somewhere between performing open heart surgery and zen gardening. It’s very deliberate, and each word forms into the next very carefully and in a very ‘constructed’ manner. Too much of this type of focus and you’ll probably turn into a poet, god forbid. Poets and poetry are fine, but you’re probably shooting for prose to begin with. Prose isn’t so much ‘better’ than poetry as it’s more capable of bearing a story, and story adds such a deeper level to language and words. Once we’re telling a story everything has the potential to be metaphor, or in reference to something, or basically for lack of better term: what it’s not. We can obviously say that in any truly well written story, the surface of the matter is never what it appears to be. Take for instance, Philip Roth’s ‘The Conversion of The Jews’. It’s about a jewish boy going to sabbath school who questions the reason of the old testament. What makes the story work is that it doesn’t feel entirely real, and it also doesn’t feel entirely unreal either. Roth was a postmodern writer, and so most of the stories were a little quirky in one way or another, as to question the nature of the story itself, but for a writer this is an inherently useful quality. We should always be looking at the thing we’re doing because everything needs to be edited.
My final thought on writing: You could write and write forever about writing but the only thing that you can ever do to help is to do it. Obviously there’s things you’re doing too much and things you’re not doing enough, but you probably know what those things are. It also helps to read what you wrote (something I’m guilty of not doing enough). It also helps to be honest with yourself, because that makes it easier to be honest on the page, And to put your fucking phone away.