Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Can real writers hate writing?

I mentioned in my previous post that I sometimes hate writing, but love "having written."

I seem to have broken some kind of sacred rule.

One commenter pointed out that those who don't love every minute of writing eventually give up. A few people in real life who read the post said the same thing to me. I know that many writing books, especially those by Anne Lamott and Stephen King, extol the virtues of the process itself, while downplaying the publication part.

Look, I've been a professional writer my entire adult life. I've had hundreds of thousands of words published in newspapers and magazines. Writing is all I've ever done. Frankly, it's probably all I can do, since I've yet to discover any additional skills.

I've also been working out at the gym for most of my adult life, as well. I do it five times a week, and I'm there for two hours (although some of that time is spent relaxing in the steam room. If you haven't tried it, don't knock it!). Many people would call me obsessed with exercise. And maybe I am.

I know that I love feeling fit and looking my best. I know that it's good for my body and my soul. And it works wonders for my creativity.

But here's a dirty little secret: I hate exercising, but I love having exercised.

Most days, I literally drag my sorry butt to the gym when I would really rather be snug in my warm bed with a cup of coffee, watching Morning Joe on MSNBC. In fact, I often spend much of the morning trying to talk myself out of actually working out, when all the while my body is already going through the motions.

For me, that's what it takes to do it with any regularity. Sure, there are days when something clicks and suddenly I'm in the groove -- in that special zone where I feel the blood pumping and it's all good. But those times are few and far between. Most days, my muscles ache and my breath gets short and later, as I sit at my desk writing, my legs cramp up and my back hurts.

You see, for me, exercising sucks. It really does. I hate it most of the time.

But I cannot fathom my life without it. I would rather die than become inactive. And therein lies the dichotomy. I have a love/hate relationship with working out. I can't live without it, so I do it because I have to.

It's the same with writing.

Most days at my desk are spent grappling with words and phrases and just trying to fashion something coherent from the shit flowing from my brain. I agonize over my writing. I really do. Sure, it sometimes flows like a rain-swollen stream, but that's just not the way it is during the actual writing process. It takes work to make writing flow like that. And some days, I can pull it off.

Some days. But most days, I can't. And that's when I hate it.

Then the following day comes, when I read back over what I wrote the previous day and revise and revise and revise. And when it's just the way I want it, I sit back and smile. Because THAT'S when it feels good.

Of course, that feeling is short-lived, because then I must start the process all over again.

And I hate it. With a passion. But I cannot fathom my life without it.

How about you? Do you REALLY love the writing process? Or are you like me, and struggle to get it just so before you can finally exhale and move on?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The tipping point?

It's been a while, hasn't it?

I could tell you I'm sorry for not blogging in so long, but that would be a lie. Instead of blogging, I've been struggling just to keep writing. It's not been easy, since life has decided to turn nasty the past few weeks.

I can't go into detail, but suffice it to say that things have been somewhat intense lately. I hate when things get all life-and-death, you know? Add in the fact that I've been really struggling with this whole "I'm a writer" thing, and you've got, well, me.

Several times over the past couple of weeks, I've started to write a blog post and it was so depressing that I deleted it. I'm honestly tired of feeling sorry for myself and sharing it here for the whole world to see. It gets old.

I realize I am at a critical juncture in my "career." A tipping point. This would be the time when most sane people would pack it in and get a real job. I'm close to doing just that. But I've forced myself to sit down and write on my new manuscript anyway, even when I would rather chew off my own leg than do just that.

God, it's hard sometimes. I suspect that for some of us, sitting at our computers typing away on some piece of work that will likely die on the vine anyway is our own peculiar brand of insanity.

Goddamn it. I want to write and publish a novel.

There. I said it. I want to write and publish a novel. Or twenty. I really, really do. It's been my dream since I was a teenager. I love writing (or, having written, actually). I used to think I was good at it. I'm not so sure these days.

Life and my own self-doubts just keep popping up, day after day.

So, I haven't been ignoring you, my friends. Instead, I've been dealing with some hard times and some killer self-doubts. But I'm still writing. Maybe not well, but writing nonetheless. And when I read my new book, I sometimes get that old feeling back. I find myself sometimes thinking, This thing is pretty good. In fact, it's damn good!

And these days, that's enough to bring me back to the computer the next day. Right now, it's all I have.