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What do you think…

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I had a good writing day. The words seemed to flow pretty easily, which is not always the case. I used to think that if the writing doesn’t pour out, it probably isn’t very good — that the reader could somehow sense the “effort” and the writing would feel strained, as if you weren’t fully in the world of the story.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Jim Vallely, a good friend of mine, always says that your writing is probably not as good as you think it is… but also not as bad. I’ve found that to be true. When you’re in the moment and the adrenaline is pumping and the words are flying, it always feels like I’m one adjective away from a Pulitzer. Then, after I’ve cooled down, I read it and usually fall into despair. What was I thinking? How could I have loved something this abysmal? The truth, as Jim says, is usually somewhere in between.

I’m now thinking that’s true of easy writing = good writing. Frankly, some things are just harder to write than others. For me, dialogue comes fairly easy and description is often painful — but that doesn’t mean it’s bad or any less valuable.

What do you think?

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9 Comments
  • brennas_life

    I am totally with you there on the writing experience, having just finished my 244 page dissertation. At one point I sat and hand wrote most of the conclusion in a fit of manic energy, and thought it was pretty stream of consciousness and unorganized. When I went back to it several days later, I was surprised to see that it all made sense and actually touched on all the important findings in the way that I wanted it to. You just gotta trust yourself and get it out the best way that you know how, and hope it makes sense. If it doesn’t, that’s what editors are there for. 😉

    July 4, 2007 at 12:06 am Reply
    • deanlorey

      Yeah, good point. I find that it’s best to try not to be too critical on first drafts. If you’re worried that something is going to suck, you’re likely to censor yourself and then miss out on the discoveries, which is the real joy of writing (to me, at least).

      July 4, 2007 at 12:11 am Reply
  • sarah_prineas

    First, yay good writing day!
    A buddy of mine, , posted the other day about his happiness (he’s recently married) and how it’s made his writing better and easier. It’s not quite what you’re talking about, but I think one of the things that Charlie was getting at was that miserably gutting through the writing (up in the garret) is less likely to result in good writing than work produced while writing next to your new love in a coffeeshop and letting the words flow.
    Weirdly, for me the work produced in those lovely writing frenzies you’re talking about is usually better than I expect it to be. I read back over it and think, “how on earth did I come up with that?” Or, “I didn’t actually come up with that, the subconscious writer did.”
    Kind of like playing the piano (she said, referencing her earlier blog post). I do better when I relax and don’t think about it too much.

    July 4, 2007 at 12:07 am Reply
    • deanlorey

      It’s funny, I used to know a producer of a comedy I wrote that HATED it when I was happy. He was never more pleased than when things were going badly in my life, but if things were looking up romantically or financially, he was convinced that the writing would suffer. This comes from the theory that comedy comes out of pain and, if you’re happy, how can you be funny?
      Whether or not there’s truth to that, I can’t say, but I immediately thought of it when you mentioned your friend and his newfound happiness. Good for him! I hope it results in better work and, even if it doesn’t, who cares? What’s the point of life other than to find your share of happiness?

      July 4, 2007 at 12:16 am Reply
  • stephanieburgis

    Neil Gaiman said something that really rings true to me – that both the miracle and the tragedy of being a writer is that two years after you write a book, when you look back at it, you know there were bits that flowed and were a gift from the writing gods; you know that there were horrible, horrible days when you had to fight to hammer out anything and felt like it was all terrible; but when you look back at the book from 2 years’ distance, there’s no way to tell which part was which. Which feels like a terrible letdown for the “gift from the gods” flowing bits…but the good news is, the stuff that feels horrible and strained as you’re writing it generally tends to read just fine – it’s only the experience of writing it that feels different.

    July 4, 2007 at 3:42 pm Reply
    • deanlorey

      You just said so perfectly what I was fumbling to get across — that the personal experience of writing something is not really a “true-north” indicator of its value. When I re-read stuff from a while ago, it all just seems of a piece and I have no idea what was difficult to write or what was easy. In a way, that’s comforting to me. It encourages me to push through a section that doesn’t, in the moment, seem to be “kissed by the heavens” with the knowledge that the ultimate worth of it is probably greater than the experience of writing it.
      But, boy, doesn’t it feel good when stuff just flows?

      July 4, 2007 at 3:49 pm Reply
      • stephanieburgis

        Oh, yeah. Regardless of how it’ll read later – those moments when the writing just comes to you are the moments that make everything else worthwhile!

        July 4, 2007 at 4:01 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    I agree that it’s somewhere in the middle – I have read blog entries from friends that were meant to be casual, but they were written so well, they belonged in a magazine somewhere. In my experience, I’ve found that my “state of mind” greatly affects my type of writing – and I don’t mean happy or sad. If I am in a patient, careful mood, my writing comes out organized and a little formal; if I am in a carefree and casual mood, it’s organized but informal. It’s subtle but the tone changes; so when it’s difficult for me to write, I just think of that as another tone from when it’s easy for me to write.
    And btw, I can’t wait until your book comes out! I am really looking forward to it (but I am also in Canada so I’ll probably have to wait longer than the others).
    P.S. I am also part of Melissa Marr’s Subtle Reminder campaign for you to blog.

    July 5, 2007 at 12:32 am Reply
    • deanlorey

      Blog entries are definitely their own peculiar kind of art form. Melissa is shockingly good at them and I’m astounded by how religiously she keeps up with hers. In fact, I just looked and saw her new blog entry where she (very graciously) sent folks over here, so welcome and thanks for coming by and posting!

      July 5, 2007 at 12:52 am Reply

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