On writing

I am sure that some feel that it is an exaggeration to suggest that blogging is a form of writing (in the prissiest, writing is something you do when writing a book sort of way). Nevertheless, I’m fairly certain that just about anybody that blogs or indeed has tried their hand at writing anything at all will gain some form of solace from this recent article in the Guardian.

Not writing for a living provides me with lots of wonderful procrastination excuses that I would never have as a full-time writer. On the other hand, perhaps the difference between having all day and a few key hours at my disposal is not realistically so great. While I was unemployed for several months last year I certainly found that the apparent glut of free time at my fingertips did not magically and immediately translate into a welter of productive writing. When it comes to procrastination, it would seem that the human mind (or at least mine!) is remarkably adaptable in always managing to find a way.

Of the nine writers who offer up their opinions on writing, I find Hari Kunzru’s contribution to be the most similar to how I feel about writing in general:

I get great pleasure from writing, but not always, or even usually. Writing a novel is largely an exercise in psychological discipline – trying to balance your project on your chin while negotiating a minefield of depression and freak-out. Beginning is daunting; being in the middle makes you feel like Sisyphus; ending sometimes comes with the disappointment that this finite collection of words is all that remains of your infinitely rich idea. Along the way, there are the pitfalls of self-disgust, boredom, disorientation and a lingering sense of inadequacy, occasionally alternating with episodes of hysterical self-congratulation as you fleetingly believe you’ve nailed that particular sentence and are surely destined to join the ranks of the immortals, only to be confronted the next morning with an appalling farrago of clichés that no sane human could read without vomiting. But when you’re in the zone, spinning words like plates, there’s a deep sense of satisfaction and, yes, enjoyment…

I’d be interested to hear on what other bloggers might think on this topic, and which writer’s contribution they most identify with.

6 thoughts on “On writing

  1. I vote for Julie Myerson

    It depends on the primary motivation for putting words down: whether it is for
    * oneself (with an audience a nice-to-have) as carthasis or to help pin down your own thinking (the second a bit like explaining an idea to others is useful, a bit like the “cleaning lady” method of debugging code – the cleaning lady doesn’t have to understand what you say, it’s putting it into words that matters)

    or

    * an audience (because you think your own ideas are spot on)

    If it is primarily to benefit yourself, then you don’t necessarily need the discipline to force yourself to write to a deadline or hone the text to perfection. Once you’ve either “got it out of your system” or the idea has become concrete enough in your own head to us, why bother with the extra effort?

  2. dk.au, yeah I have recently read with interest Doctorow’s thoughts and I agree for long-form writing they can be quite useful.

    Dave, I’m a bit of a perfectionist at heart. If I am working on a longer piece that spans multiple days of effort, I tend to get bogged down in reviewing a lot of what I have done previously and making a slew of trivial changes every time I get started. Seems to me most of the time to be procrastination dressed up as excessive acclimatisation with where I am up to!

  3. If blogging isn’t writing what is it? I usually start longer pieces such as film reviews in my head, sometimes use pen and paper and usually do the main draft in Word. Enjoy editing a lot. Logic and creativity collaborating.

    It ‘s a bit like public speaking. The more I believe in what I’m writing about, the more joy in the task.

  4. The difference between blogging and writing is that if you get blogger’s block, you can just link.

  5. Kevin, when I blog, I generally get the idea of what I am going to blog about a few hours earlier during the day. Half the time though, I am not sure quite where it is going to end up until I have looked into things a bit more and formed a firm opinion.

    Saint, too true. :) Probably a bad habit a lot of the time.

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