Thursday, September 08, 2005

Notes from the trenches

There's a truism about filmmaking, that a film is made three times: once on the page, again on the set and finally in the editing room.

Writing is kind of like that. The work in your head doesn't much resemble what you find yourself writing. You have an idea of it in your head, of a precise, sparkling lightning-bolt of prosaic wisdom, and this ugly-duckling draft you've ended up with is somehow supposed to be spit-polished and endlessly refined, enough so that it soars swanlike above the work of your peers, who are, after all, mere mortals. Once you get to the end of your first draft, you're not even sure what the hell you set out to accomplish in the first place. The horror novel has turned into a cookbook and you're wondering when exactly it was that the boom fell.

And that's when the reality sets in and you realize that this whole writing thing takes a hell of a lot more work than you first thought. "Goddamnit," you think, "this is going to take actual effort." You whine, wander off to something else, dismayed at the thought that perspiration is coming around the corner. It's supposed to be fun, dammit, not back-breaking. Waaah. Waaah.

I go through this every single time I sit down to write. By now, one would think, the process would have sunk in. Not so. One advantage, I suppose, is that you hold onto that spark that kept you going just a bit tighter; it's what you fall back on to keep from losing your footing. You just hope that you can stick with it in the long run. And then when you find yourself unconsciously digging your heels into the floor, you start to smile. Because suddenly it’s become fun again.

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