A lot of my entries here have been in service of writing for a living. Because, well, to quote Igor from Van Helsing...it's what I do.
But, you know, I also wrote before that because it was my passion. There were days when I would write intensely for hours, by hand, with my specifically chosen and specially designated Writing Pen. I remember a month when I felt the Muse had abandoned me, and then sitting by a river with pen in hand, suddenly, joyously reacquainted with her like a lover from the past, madly scribbling out ten or twelve hand written pages.
Writing got me through two divorces, a decade of depression, crippling self-esteem issues and the loss of several family members. It was more than my hobby, it was my Zen, my crutch...my lifeline. Storytelling was an addiction I fed through any means I could. Video games, where I would have my own motivations for my characters on the screen. Role-playing games (SOOO many of those) where my characters had their own voices, their own goals and reactions completely separate from my own. Historical recreation and LARPing, the ultimate in character and story immersion for me. And the dozens of notebooks I filled with half-finished stories.
I haven't forgotten the soul-deep pleasure of crafting the perfect writing environment. The right music, the right light levels, snack and beverage to hand, ready to immerse myself in the characters and let them tell me their stories. Of waiting for my next day off so I could spend the whole day writing, or composing scenes in my head and writing at my own leisure later. Of not worrying about whether or not I finished something, of just living in the moment in the story. There were days when that was the only way I could feel alive.
For a long time, the process was essential. How I went about writing was as important as what I wrote, if not more so. Just the act of writing itself was my primary goal.
But at some point, I got tired of being the consumer. I got tired of being the audience. I was no longer satisfied with just sitting there and watching from the sidelines while others did what I wanted to for a living. I heard the call of the arena, and I jumped in.
Although I’ve bene writing with the intent of going pro, I've only been writing professionally for a year and a half. To get there, I had to change a lot of things about my writing process. I had to take out anything that might give me an excuse to keep from writing. It takes a discipline to write full time that I still struggle with. But one thing I learned is that while my writing process has changed, my love of writing has not. As I get more comfortable with the necessities of writing full time, I find that I can reintegrate some of the things that I used to do back into my writing routine. Just not all of them. But first, I had to eliminate everything that was not sitting down at the keyboard and hammering away.
If you’re an amateur writer, a hobby writer, a Zen writer or whatever kind of writer, do your thing. Enjoy writing to its fullest. I’ve walked that path, and found my bliss there. I walk a different path now, but that bliss came with me. Keep writing, keep doing your thing. There is a purity in what you do that holds a beauty all its own. Gods forbid that light ever go out.
Not long ago, I ran across some comments about how writers just had to let the process flow, that if you worked too hard at it, you were going to start killing the process. You’d sound like a Harlequin romance.
“I can tell when a writer is forcing it in the first paragraph and I’ll put the book right down!”
“Never force your writing. That just makes for bad writing.”
All of this seems to point to an idea that art should come easily. That, if you’re “talented” enough, it just falls neatly onto the page, like Venus springing fully formed from the foamy brine because the Muse channels it magically through your enchanted self. I did my first take on my first novel like that. The result was something that had promise and failed utterly to deliver on it. Two years of queries, partial and full manuscript requests, and rejections later and I was ready to give up. Finally, someone pointed out the REAL problem with the whole thing, and convinced me to tear it down and start from word one. The finished product is vastly different from the rainbow colored, glitter-filled pile of crap I did the first time.
Art is hard. It’s messy and complicated and uncooperative. And like most things we do in life, it almost never turns out right the first time. And limiting ourselves to what we first throw down on the page, I think, is the opposite of letting art “flow.” I think we have created this perception of creativity being like water, that it just gushes forth freely. But maybe….maybe it’s more like wet, sticky clay. It just sits there until we reach in and start squishing it and mashing it and shaping it and getting our hands dirty, then reshaping it and refining it until we have something beautiful.
And make no mistake, for some of us, it isn’t the finished product that is the end goal. Sometimes, act of making art itself is what we’re after. For a lot of writers, just creating worlds and watching the characters’ stories unfold is the entirety of what our art is for. Storytelling is our therapy, our escape. It’s where we find God, serenity or our Zen space. Calling it a hobby falls far short, and calling those writers amateurs feels like a disservice to me, even if the terms are technically correct. When you’re creating art for yourself, writing stories to your own standards, you’re going to write the work you want to read, generally, and you’re usually going to get it right or close to right the first time.
It’s when we start trying to make art that speaks to others that it gets hard. We have to see things from our own perspective, and that of our audience, and bridge the two, so that our audience can see what we see.
Like I said, messy and complicated.
The following two videos are a great example of how the finished product can be so very different where we start from, and the magic of trying out different approaches, instead of expecting it to just fall from our pens fully formed.
The first one shows the process inthe studio, and the second is the finished product. The difference is enlightening.