Monday, March 02, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 61 - Should Writing be a Chore?

Well, after figuring out how to finish my draft last week, all I had to do this week was actually write the rest of it. First drafts are a love/hate thing in my opinion - you either love them or you hate them. And, I find, whatever that initial reaction is usually flip-flops later. I've had first drafts that I thought were smashing, only to be confronted with their complete lack of coherent structure as feedback started coming in on them. On the other hand, I've written drafts that seemed to be little better than a waste of ink, paper, and time. These often go over really well with those I seek notes from.

I'm terrible at judging my own writing much of the time, so all I can say for sure is that the first draft of my Roman-army spec is probably, I think, most likely somewhere in between. It was, at times, an excruciating write. Other times it was fun and quite enjoyable. I've gotten some preliminary feedback from a couple Leaguers and the gone but not forgotten LoKor (yes, he's alive!). Of the three, two think that the draft is solid and just a few tweaks and cuts from being ready to go out. Mystery man number three, though, believes that there's work to be done. A LOT of work. I guess I'll find out tomorrow at our next meeting, and see for myself.

Working on this draft, though, has raised an interesting question for me - should writing feel like a chore? I read a lot of interviews with writers who make it seem as though writing is the last thing in the world that they want to do. Some go to extreme lengths to make sure that they put words down on the page at some point during their day (or week) no matter how much they are loathe to do so. Writing, for a number of writers, is worse than a chore; sometimes it is torturous. I have to ask - how can this be? Maybe I'm fortunate enough that I enjoy writing and get pissy when I don't do it one day; and yes, I've had days when I really can't focus on my work. The blank page just stays blank. But should it ever seem that daunting that we do anything possible to avoid it?

There are a number of ways of looking at writing, I suppose. Writing is a hobby, writing is a job, or, if you're lucky, writing is a bit of both. I'm not making money as a writer at the moment, but I acknowledge that, at least now, it is my career. I would not pursue it if I did not enjoy sitting down to work on a script before and after work each day. If I didn't get excited at the thought of a new idea or a new project, I don't see how I could ever get myself to stare at another blank first page. Perhaps it's because I haven't yet made money writing that I like doing it so much - I haven't been exposed to the ugly side of the business, haven't had a project taken away from me and can only go up from here. Because I haven't broken into the industry yet, I am left alone to still look forward to doing my writing on my own terms. Either way, it's an odd thought. Should writing be a chore? Is it for you?

1 comment:

Joe said...

Shout-out, ftw.

I think writers get in moods where writing does feel like a chore. I think it's inevitable. I'm defining chore in this sense as something you do despite not wanting to do it. Naturally, if you do something every day there are going to be some days where, due to any one of an infinite number of variables, you don't really want to do it. You hit on the solution here - this is where discipline comes in. So long as you make yourself WORK through these moods, you'll find yourself on the other side of things. And if you never do, then you write something like "Adaptation."

Your training, I believe, addresses those times when writing isn't quite in your heart. There's a similar parallel with acting and acting technique. Ideally, an actor can get on the stage and just do it without really understanding why. The motivations of the character they're playing, the actions, the objectives, it all clicks to produce something magical. Where technique comes in is when you have to do it over and over again or where you can't quite figure out your character's angle. In those moments, your training kicks in and helps you find that dynamic quality that an actor strives for.

In a perfect world, you sit at your keyboard and go to town every day and create something beautiful, but the world is not perfect. When you don't want to write, because something is more pressing in your life, because you're uninspired, or because the challenges posed by your script seem too daunting, you come back to technique and discipline to pull you through.

Should writing be a chore? No. Is it? Sometimes. And if you loathe it all the time, the problem is not necessarily writing, but it could be the writer's approach to his/her craft.