Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing is heaven...and hell...

Black cat; white roof.
photo by ssoosay via flickr

Today*, on my various forms of social media, I posted a link to an article about a brief spat between Philip Roth and Elizabeth Gilbert on writing:

Is writing hell, or heaven? Philip Roth and Elizabeth Gilbert disagree, while 20 writers tell all in 'Why We Write'

My first reaction to the idea was that writing is both. It truly can be hell. It's hell to know you have a story in your head that insists on being put to paper, but you sit and stare at the screen knowing that the first thing you write (from that very first beginning--the one you know won't make it to print--to merely the first thing in that writing session) is going to be pure crap. And you resist writing crap. Naturally.

Then there's the staring because you just don't know what to write. You don't know where to start, what to say, how to say it. You think maybe this writing thing isn't for you. Maybe you're a fraud. People were going to find out sooner or later; it's high time you realized it yourself.

And it's hell when you sit out in the family computer room blogging, or scrolling down Facebook's endless drivel looking for some diversion, playing Words with Friends, or a PopCap Mystery P.I. game, all the while knowing full well the novel is calling you. You can hear it. It's saying, "Get your fat bottom in here and write me." But you don't. And that's hell.

The day gets by you. Then a week. Sometimes more. That's hell. And it's a hell we create. All by ourselves. Fully knowing we're creating it.

We know we're making our own hell, because we've experienced heaven.

We know that once we get in there, sit down, and just start writing, even if it's crap, even if it's just some stupid thought that comes into our heads--once we do it, we start making art. We make ourselves laugh, and cry, and tingle with excitement. We're in heaven when we write, even when we write crap, because we know that once the crap is on the screen, it can be turned to molding clay, and that clay can be shaped into our hearts and our desires and our art.

So, why do we continue to put ourselves through the hell of it? Maybe we think, subconsciously, that we have to suffer for it. Or maybe...maybe the heaven is soul-wrenching, as wonderful as it is. It's frightening. It leaves us exposed and raw. We come away from heaven spent and satisfied, and worried that we won't get it back.

Maybe the heaven and the hell are both the same. The heaven is hell and the hell is heaven. And we just have to deal with it.

I hate philosophy.

Anyway, I've taken to planting candy in my work room as a lure. It doesn't really work. I may have come to the conclusion that there should be no lure. There should be no heaven, and no hell. There should only be my job. And as a job, I would have to agree with Elizabeth Gilbert, it's fantastic.

But, I don't have to pay the bills.

*Originally published on 02/07/2013 on another blog.


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