53/365 When Writing Goes Bad

Last week a new colleague got asked about why I write.

“I don’t know why I write exactly. I don’t do it for readers, for publishing contracts or for money. I don’t do it for recognition either. I can’t shake it off. It’s like I’ve trodden in something dark, soft and pungent, and I can’t get rid of it from the soul of my shoe.”

The analogy doesn’t work terribly well (or maybe it does, depending on your opinion of my writing). But, it does go some way to explain the crushing disappointment when the writing process doesn’t go well.

Take a couple of days ago when I set aside a couple of hours on a flight to scribble down an idea I’d had at security an hour or so before. I retrieved my big yellow notebook, dug around in my bag and got underway.

An hour or so later, I realised that at the same time as writing, I had been telling myself I was writing complete bollocks, that I should just give up on the damn thing, that none of this would ever work, nobody cared, I was kidding myself, and that I was a complete idiot for even trying.

I had in effect been shitting all over the blank page long before the pen made a stroke on the paper.

The scatological references end there, I promise.

The experience has bothered me. I can accept that nothing will be perfect, and from that viewpoint something might turn out to be pretty good with re-writes, long punishing executive board meetings with myself about the content, further research, followed by another re-write.

I can also (usually) mentally prepare myself for a scribbling session by telling myself that the purpose of the ‘first stab’ is to uncover further ideas, rather than committing the first one.

But what I need to tackle next are those situations when the engine stalls after the journey has been embarked upon. At the moment it feels like I’ve abandoned the vehicle at the side of the road and have taken myself off to a showroom to buy another vehicle.

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