I can binge on the occasional gripe just like anybody else. OK, maybe not like anyone else because I can turn my whingeing into an art form, a low art, mind you, for a couple of days. I’m shameless at it, but then I feel so rotten I have to listen to the Smiths to cheer me up.
Why am I writing this? It sounds like I’m riding Facebook’s fast express train to expression.
It has come to my attention (to begin in the formal voice of my former headmaster) that writers love to complain. Not all, mind you, but I’ve heard enough (even myself, so I’m just as culpable) from time to time. They grumble on about how difficult the book was to write, how hard, how painful, how draining, how…. You can now fill in the appropriate adjective since I’m too exhausted.
Are you getting my grief?
On my best nights I can write exactly 2,736 words. (I keep track because it’s good to pat one’s self on the back.) On my worst, I can grind out about, oh, I don’t know, a thousand, give or take. (Notice how deliberately vague I am.) And on those worst nights, it is difficult, to the extent that getting the next word out is difficult, the next sentence, the next paragraph. But not in the way it’s difficult for an operating surgeon with a life at his fingertips, or a workman tarmacing a black highway in 100-plus degree weather, or a solider in Afghanistan, or a cop in Boston, or a flight attendant with a cranky, early-morning frequent flyer who has just discovered peanuts in his lap.
Write, or don’t write, that is the question! There’s plenty of desperate writers out there cramming to get in.
Even on my worst night I’m more disinterested than anything else, like a dog turning his nose up at the dish. Feel a bit like a jolted lover. But by the next day, I’m like a randy satyr glad to get back to the woodland.
Now how difficult was that? I say to myself in a velvety voice.
And on my best nights (and I do have a few of these), well, it gets no more difficult than a nice comfy chair, a quiet house, and no interruptions. What more could a writer ask for? And, sometimes, if I’m especially good, there’ll be a glass of wine to celebrate all the hard work I’ve done. Then I’ll get up, stretch, and recline on the sofa, relaxing in the tipsy haze of a besotted couple of hours at the keyboard and completely wasted on my accomplishments.
Difficult? I trust to the difficult (to quote Rilke). In fact the more difficult it is the better I feel about what I’m doing. Without the sense of the ridiculous amount of difficulty that is set before me, I’d be a wretch.
But I’m still breathing after my bout of difficulty, I’m still intact in body and mind (altered, yes, but not falling apart), and I’m still blockheaded enough to go at the difficulty again — as long as the computer doesn’t gobble me up and spit me out as a poser.
What’s that that Tom Waits croons? There’s always some killing you’ve got to do around the farm.
I take away from that: Crow all you want. While you’re doing it, there are writers out there who are really doing it.