16 June 2010

Addictions & Writing

I thought I'd continue our little discussion on addictions. I find it fascinating. Again, I'm not talking about the kind of addictions that can get you killed, arrested, or worse. I'm talking about the things we love, can't do without, don't want to do without. You know, things like coffee, chocolate, books.

And writing.

Are you addicted to writing? Am I? Do I think you have to be addicted to writing to create something meaningful, brilliant and publisher-worthy?

No. I don't think so. It sure helps, but I don't think it's necessary. I think you have to be committed to writing. The difference? One you do because you can't help it, the other you do because you must. Like I said, addiction to writing can definitely help the unpublished get published, the floundering to find solid ground. But it takes commitment, sold out, unwavering commitment to the craft to get there and stay there. Why?

Because no one likes writing all the time. And writing isn't just about putting words on paper. It's about editing and polishing and editing and rewriting, and cursing the day you ever decided to write a novel. It's about having others read it and listening to their critiques unflinching. It's about crying at midnight because you just lost 1200 pages when the power went out and you just knew you could type that next paragraph before you hit the save button. That's commitment. Commitment is about quality; I believe a writing addiction would be more about quantity.

What you DO have to be addicted to is STORY. You have to be consumed by your story in order to write it, stay with it, edit it, throw it out, start over, rewrite it, and spend the grueling months (years?) sending out query after query after query. You must believe in this story, believe in the characters, their actions, their reactions, the good, the bad, the ugly. Especially the ugly because that's what get criticised the most.

Am I addicted to writing? No. In fact, there's some days I flat tell myself I'm not going to write. Do I write every day? Yes, but not on my current manuscript. I just got that one going today. The idea has been bouncing around and I finally forced myself to type all day at work between phone calls. What else was I going to do? Oh (Insert disclaimer here and apologize profusely for not reading and commenting on blogs in the past few days. Also insert a sad face. Those work too.)

So tell me, are you addicted to writing? If you are, I think that's AWESOME! I'll bet you can pull out some awesome word counts. Or better yet, you can look back at your plethora of written words and see progress that we less than prolific writers are able. Either way, why or why not? For me, it's simple: I get distracted. Not by life or by work, but by the story. I'll be sailing along, clickety-clacking away and suddenly, the story will go off in my head, I'll think of a later scene, and off I go, day dream mode, full steam ahead. And I forget about the writing. I'd rather grab some popcorn and see what my kids are going to do next. And then, when they're finished, they stare at me. "Um, aren't you going to write any of this down?" they ask. "Sure, sure," I shoo them back, "but not now. I want to see more? What's next?"

Ah yes, the burdens of a dreamer.


Brian Miller said...

i am addicted to story mind works in story mode, putting all the elements together...yeah. i got it...bad.

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

I so relate to this, Jen. Thanks for the reminder about the harsh realities of the business of writing. I've been whining and feeling crappy and full of self-pity for months over the State of My Work...but I haven't been putting in the time. I'd talk a good ballgame about being addicted to the craft, but the truth: not so much.

The English Writer said...

I am addicted to writing. I know this because when there's periods of time in my life I can't write (family, work, moving etc), I get withdrawals symptoms. My husband sees it too, he knows it's because I can't get my "fix". This is especially true if I'm writing a new story. Pop over to L'Aussie, she's written a brillaint post about e-publishing that I think you may like, Karen x

Mary Aalgaard said...

Yes. because I think like a writer. I'm listening for story all the time. I tuck it into my memory. I jot it on a napkin. I eavesdrop without (much) shame. I butt into conversations. Yes, I neglect my ms now and then, but it's always knocking on the inside of my brain. And, I've sat back and watched the scene in my head before writing a word of it. I thought I was the only crazy one.

rosedale's 4head said...

there was a time when i was addicted to creatively writing, but that's passed now...i'm addicted to reading - can't get enough of it. other addictions of mine...: blogging, fried catfish, cold beer on a hot afternoon, and my living room space...i could go on...and that would defeat the purpose of 'an addiction' ! insightful post!!!

prashant said...

I am addicted to writing.
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