Writing is hard. Yes, another blogger whining about writing.
But don’t you think? You just swirl all these ideas around in your head. Compelling metaphors, sophisticated turns of phrase. (Actually, I hate the phrase “turn of phrase.” Please disregard.) Sentence after sentence you’ve trimmed and edited, sometimes it’s a whole paragraph in your head. You don’t even know what theme binds these thoughts together, how you’ll express them coherently. You know, though, that you’ll sit down, and just blurt words out, BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH typetypetypetypetype, and you’ll go and go and go, and you’ll look like a Hollywood writing montage, the camera panning slowly up and down while you tappity-tap away on your typewriter, the lens catching you sching–ping! the scroll or whatever it’s called back to the left, the camera keeps scrolling up, catches your head tilted up but eyes tilted down, peeking through your bifocals, and you just type all damn day. Ideas! Expression! You’re an artiste!
Then you really do sit down, and you stare at the screen or at your paper. And you type a whole paragraph, read it, delete it. Maybe your problem is you write the same thing four different ways. I like to write paragraphs that sum up an entire idea and resolve it by the end. “Too efficient” is what I tell myself, such a smarmy, self-aware way to dismiss crappy writing. Then I reverse course and write every stupid single word that enters my mind, and then–well, then you get the past few sentences. (I’m trying to acknowledge that no one wants to read about another whiny blogger here, bear with me.) But that flow, the ease. When does it begin? How often do I write before it happens? What happens if I suddenly write nonstop, words pouring out of me, only to be terrible?
I ponder this because I will shortly be linking to an additional blog, Back Sports Page, where I will regularly cover the tennis world. It’s the first time in years–since high school, really–that I’ll be required, in a sense, to produce original pieces of writing on a regular basis. And let’s just say that then I wasn’t too inspired to meet the deadline. But this is a gig I actively sought and appreciate having earned. So wrangling with the anxiety of a commitment to consistent creative output, while seemingly counter-intuitive given my fondness for the subject, both refreshes my intellect and constricts my output. I look forward to the comfort of my own forum, where I can discuss a passion of my life, but that doesn’t magically eradicate the self-consciousness that can paralyze me, or any writer. (I’m already worried about my combination of first- and second-person in this piece. But I’m not changing it. Confidence in a personal style choice? Defiance of literary norms? Uh, laziness? Whatever.)
You blurt out a witty comment or something, you sign a birthday card with a nice pun, and people think “You should be a writer!” Or you play a good game of Taboo. (And I have to say, I play a mean game of Taboo.) “You’re good with words–I bet you’d be a good writer!” But there’s a freedom to the spoken word that almost makes it an opposing duality of the written word. Words you say disappear into the air. The exact phrase you use becomes an echo in others’ minds. You learn at a young age that you can’t erase what you’ve said, so we never develop the desire to self-edit. (Until we hear our recorded selves. Are we more concerned with the aural qualities of our voices, or maybe what we said, and how we said it?) When you’re speaking, the occasional transgression is accepted, sometimes encouraged. “And then we opened the sushi–which reminds me…” (Robin Williams has essentially made a career out of word salad. He just has a wide array of dressings.) Sometimes, it’s easier to be articulate when you’re speaking, because if you put the words together just right, people admire your off-the-cuff cohesion. You smirk, and think, if they only knew I’m not really saying anything.
Your writing, though, glares right back at you. Immediately. You really think that? I mean, you wrote it! You’re forced constantly to reassess every thought–not only every thought, but the exact way you formed it. You remind yourself of the untold history of writing, the writing that exists but will remain forever unread, the chances that your perceptions of life or the human condition have been either exactly or superlatively replicated by another. What stirring thoughts could I possibly contribute to a sport covered by thousands internationally? And, let’s face it, even when you’re a huge fan, enamored in the nuance replete within all aspects of the game, tennis is not the most complex sport. They play in tournaments, where there is one winner, determined by who hits a ball back and forth the best. Wow!
Writing leaves me vulnerable, mainly to my own self-criticism. But great writers will tell you that to become a great writer, you just have to write. A lot. Daily. Whatever you can put down. You face what you’ve written, mold your tendencies over time, improve, feel satisfaction in that improvement. You won’t make any sweeping changes overnight. As Andre Agassi said (and probably Confucius before him or something), it’s about the journey, not the destination. Kinda like life, I guess.
OK…so. Any of you seven readers out there like to write? Anything hold you back? Any tips or ideas? I’d love to read new perspectives on all this.