I’m always a bit amazed when people say this to me. I don’t ‘love writing’. Very few (published) writers I know do. We might sometimes love a part of the process – the research for some, the edit for others, the making that beautiful sentence, bringing together a plot point and a couple of characters just when it’s useful – or more exciting – finding that something that really didn’t work can be made to work with a bit more effort on our part … but generally, and for most writers I know, it’s work. It’s what we do. It’s our job. And, like most people with a job they often really enjoy, there are bits they prefer to others. Days that go better than others. Weeks or even months that go better than others.
I had one of those days this weekend. I finished my fourth draft (Editor’s 2nd draft) of this new book. And I finished it really happily, pleased with the changes I’d made, delighted that it’s all come together in what I hope is a close to finished product. (Yes, it is a product, yes publishing is a business.) I was happy with what I’d achieved in the 6 weeks leading up to Saturday lunchtime when it was, for now, ‘done’, and I was happy with what had been made and re-made. I sent it off to Editor and Agent. Hopefully they’ll be happy too.
But I wouldn’t for a moment say I’d been excited or ‘loving it’ or totally enjoying every moment of the 6 weeks prior to that moment, or indeed the twenty-one months working on it prior to that moment. It can’t always be fun or exciting or amazing or even just fairly ok. Sometimes it is just hard to get it right. Sometimes it feels as if I will never get it right, Sometimes I can’t get it right – my ambition for a book or a play or a story or whatever the piece of work may be, is bigger/grander/cleverer than I am. Than I am at the moment. Maybe I’ll get better at it and be able to achieve everything I want to one day, maybe not.
So, what I think that means is this :
1. It’s ok if it’s not always fun. It IS work and that means sometimes it will be easy and great to do and sometimes not.
2. Nothing (no-one) can be brilliant all the time, not even you. Or me. We can keep trying though.
3. I sometimes wonder if the people who say they LOVE writing mean the same thing as I do by ‘writing’ – I don’t just mean the initial making-it-up bit, I mean all of it. The re-writing and the editing and the crunchy/messy/fiddly other stuff that goes with having written 1000 words that are ok (or adequate!) and trying then, to re-make them into 500 words that are actually good.
4. I don’t ‘love writing’. Like having been to the gym, or having been on a long run, I love having written.
And now I have to start all over again. Book is in with Agent and Editor, they will do their thing, and while they do that, I have Medea to adapt. I’ve never done this before, have adapted my own book for theatre, and another own book for film, but never someone else’s play, that has been adapted to death by loads of other people already anyway. I think the thing to do is maybe ignore those loads of other people. Or maybe to read all those other drafts so often that the story is in my head perfectly before I begin. Or maybe just to begin anyway. I honestly have no idea. I’ll do it all. Or none. But I will have written it within the next four weeks. And some of it will be fun and enjoyable and interesting and exciting – some of the time I may even love adapting. But probably I will just as much love having adapted*. Watch this space.
* this leads to many many questions, the same ones I have about verbatim theatre/devised work – do I get to call myself a writer of an adapted piece? I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure I want to. Just as when I’ve made verbatim and devised work I’m not sure I’m the writer. The editor or shaper or mixer or something like that … but not really the writer. I tend toward a very purist view, that if I didn’t make up the words/story all by myself, then I didn’t write it. It’s certainly a very different process, so it feels very different to ‘writing’ to me. Like someone else already did the first (and maybe second) draft, and I’m coming in later to do some more work on it. If it’s not my own all-original, all made up out of my own head STORY, am I the writer? Not sure.
meanwhile, check out Fiona Robyn’s virtual book tour :