“Writing is a mug’s game”
I’m not sure who said it, but someone must have.
One of the great pains of writing- and I mean really writing, actively writing, not just contemplating writing- is other writers. Actually, I imagine they are a pain in the ass for non-active writer’s as well.
Sometimes we need other writers. I know I do. I need my writerly friends for support, for commiseration, and for feedback- without those three things, I’d just be that guy at the bar/party/bus stop who complains about how he’s writing but no one cares and anyhow publishing is just a mug’s game… (hmm).
We all need support sometimes. The knowledge that someone, somewhere, is rooting for us to strive, to push, to overcome and to just spill all those ideas onto the page.
Everyone loves to commiserate. Oh c’mon, everyone loves to talk about how crappy their day was or how hard they worked or how much pain they are in. Despite the common knowledge that we ALL have days where we can’t hit for shit, it’s hard to listen to a friend or peer bitch about their bad experience and not feel like gushing about ours as well- even if it’s been a while since we had it. That is human nature. The better human’s among us, the better friends and peers, manage to choke that urge down and not make something that is about US about THEM. And do we repay the favor? Probably not.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely need feedback. I’ve had friends who wrote that really seemed to be writing solely for themselves. One in particular comes to mind, a very, very talented screenwriter who wrote with Speed and Wit and Panache. And then wouldn’t take notes. He couldn’t take notes- I think he was mentally incapable of it. He’d ask for feedback, and when you gave it he would nitpick and argue each point you made, until finally my Wife (beautiful and wise, remember her?) threw up her hands and said to him: “Fine! Your work is perfect, it should be instantly purchased and fast-tracked for at least 7 figures. Happy now?”
“Yes,” he whined sadly; see, he knew he had this crippling disease. He isn’t a stupid guy, just hardwired a certain way. Well, somewhere out there I think he is still writing screenplays and teleplays- and man, I really hope he’s gotten over that.
I love feedback. Sure, I bridle at some notes- but I try to keep the ego in check and the notebook open. Even bad notes can be helpful sometime- and don’t think that some people don’t hand them out! Even your friends can mislead you. But the thing is, you HAVE to listen. You asked for it, after all. I mean, how many people get unsolicited advice on their manuscript/screenplay/poem? If you showed it to someone, it really isn’t unsolicited. Partially because everyone thinks they are a writer…
Oh NOES! There I goes again.
Everyone Thinks They Are A Writer.
Especially now. Especially in this age of the computer, of the internet, of the blog, of the twitter and the facebook and the whatnot.
Writing has become so much more public, it used to be something done in private. Now every writer (or person who doesn’t write but Thinks They Should/Could/Will) has a blog or a tweet or a livejournal (or all of the above, like me) and they- wait for it- they WRITE ABOUT WRITING. Can anything be more pedantic and navel-gazingly inane than to write about writing?
Yet we love it- I love it- and love to read it. I love to see what another writer’s creative process is, how they percolate or accumulate or dispense ideas and quips and phrases. I love the fact that of my closest friends (and I mean both on-line, long distance, and local) the majority of them are Writers- or at least struggling with it.
Sometimes it’s annoying- I mean look, we’re writers. Writers are historically known for being sodden, bitter, twisted old fruits. And some sober and twisted young vegetables as well. The bitterness seems to be mandatory though. If not bitter, than a certain world-weary malaise. Now, the important question: How much of that is Affected?
I’m actually a pretty good natured, optimistic guy- when you get past the weird Rage Episodes or the raving drunken vitriol spewing sessions… but I know that sometimes I come off as, and in fact am, a mean, bitter, resentful man who takes pleasure only in his own creativity. Well, and my son, he’s pretty damn awesome- except when he doesn’t let me write, like this morning.
Dear Son: daddy gets up extra early to get writing done. I know you have taken the computer over as your personal Home Entertainment System, but daddy needs to borrow it for an hour or so every morning. Okay?
Anyway, I’m trying to be less bitter. Less resentful. Less impatient. In general, as a person, a worker and a father and husband at any rate. As a writer too. I’m supportive! Mostly. Shit, I’m working on it.
What was I… oh yes, EVERYONE thinks they can write. This used to bother me (still does- Damnit, shutup, I’m working on it!). Any jackass with a computer is a “Writer” if they are trying to be creative.
But why should this threaten me? I’ve just talked about how happy I am to have dear friends who write? Why should I care if some bartender/dock worker/pencil pusher thinks he/she/it can/should write?
Shit, I WAS a bartender and a pencil pusher, and I work on a dock. What is my problem?
I know other writers who bridle in the same way against this… but really, we aren’t up in some fucking ivory tower strewn with ivy, driven slowly mad in our garrets by the serpentine writing of our muses… well, ok, some of us are, but really…
Everyone can play. It’s writing. All you need is the drive and the imagination. The words show up. That is the magic of it.
Am I writing for myself? Yes. But I’m also writing because these stories need to go someplace. If someone else is spilling over and feels like they are about to burst- I can’t begrudge them writing.
Well, that one jackass who asked me once: “So, screenwriting, huh? I could do that. A lot of money in that,” he said nodding his head wisely. “Maybe I should get into that,” he said, stroking his chin. Guys like that? Yeah, Fuck You, chongo.
Okay, not cured. Sigh. Progress, not Perfection.