Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Where's the Enjoyment?

I'm going to ask what I'm sure will be considered a stupid question.  Does anyone get pleasure from the writing they do?  Or, put differently: does anyone enjoy writing?  I'm being facetious of course, because I have to assume that some people who regularly write like to write, but you might not think that based on the time you spend with writers, either face to face or on social media. By what often seems a wide margin, writers in varying ways discuss how hard writing is, how draining it is, how they dread doing it, how they have to give up doing fun things in life in order to carve out the time they need to do the writing they need to do. Now I'm not denigrating or mocking anyone in how they regard writing and what they say about doing it.  And there is no doubt that writing is difficult.  But it just surprises me how rarely, when you think about it, people just outright say they really enjoy the act the writing.

I should add that I'm talking in particular here about writers who don't solely write for a living.  If you're writing for a living, that's your profession, obviously and like any profession, pleasure may or may not come into it, though I certainly hope, for the writer's sake, it does. But the fact is, most writers I know have full time jobs and do their writing "on the side".  The "on the side" part of their life may be more important to them than the side that pays their bills and helps keep them and any family they have fed and with a place to live, but nevertheless, in reality, it's still essentially on the side. At least it is for most writers.  I've always found the concept of a "day job" amusing since again, for most writers, that silly "day job" is the place you spend way more of your waking existence than you do at a laptop writing.

So on an average day, after a day at work, or before work (for those who write early), isn't writing the most enjoyable part?  That time to yourself, to go into your head, your imagination, and chip away at whatever you're working on and the rest of the world, all outside concerns, be damned.  With fiction specifically, it's dreaming while awake, and not much beats that.  Writing can be maddening and frustrating and leave you feeling in the depths of hopelessness and despair, but is there anything unique to writing about this?  Nearly any activity you take seriously and give your all to can lead you to feel this way, just like any activity you want to excel at is going to be hard because of the demands you make on yourself.  Damn, when I played a lot of tennis, as I used to, I could feel close to suicidal (I exaggerate just slightly) if I played a bad match or lost a very close one. So what!  Playing tennis was still the best part of most days, and the same is true for writing.  

The author Will Self puts it well, so I'll wrap this up by quoting him here (though we have to overlook his references to outmoded forms of writing equipment):

"I gain nothing but pleasure from writing fiction...Frankly, if I didn't enjoy writing novels I wouldn't do it - the world hardly needs any more and I can think of numerous more useful things someone with my skills could be engaged in. As it is, the immersion in parallel but believable worlds satisfies all my demands for vicarious experience, voyeurism, and philosophic calisthenics.  I even enjoy the mechanics of writing, the dull timpani of the typewriter keys, the making of notes - many notes - and most seductive of all: the buying of stationery.  That the transmogrification of my beautiful thoughts into a grossly imperfect prose is always the end result doesn't faze me: all novels are only a version - there is no Platonic ideal.  But I'd go further still: fiction is my way of thinking about and relating to the world; if I don't write I'm not engaged in any praxis and lose all purchase."


Dana King said...

I don't think of writing as difficult as much as being a pain in the ass. The time spent getting certain things just right that no one but me, and maybe an editor, will ever notice or care about. That said, there are few more rewarding feelings than having written, and nothing cooler than getting positive feedback. I enjoy the process when things are going well and I can see where this is going, but that’s not anything like a daily occurrence. Most days it’s getting the words in and making sure they at least don’t suck, which can be, and often is, a pain in the ass.

scott adlerberg said...

Can't argue with anything you say there, Dana. But I do have to say that more often than not (not every single day, admittedly) I do derive a pretty decent measure of enjoyment from the actual process. All that wrestling with the words to get them at least not to suck is a kind of pleasure in itself - almost like building something physical from scratch and seeing it form in front of your eyes.

Charlieopera said...

I agree ... I had a blast writing a baseball play turned novel which was destroyed by my wife (she's a very good editor and doesn't pull punches). "I don't like it." Even when she listed aaaaaaalllllllll the reasons why, I didn't mind. It was fun writing the thing and I'll probably turn it into a short story or novella, but that'll be fun too. It has to wait because I started another novel while waiting for her to finish her read. I'm a lot more patient these days ... so even when the words suck (as that one turned out), it can be fun.