I miss when my writing was easy. I miss the days of not caring whether or not what I wrote was all that good, since no one saw it but me. I miss when I could just write randomly and inspirationally without giving it focus or being complete. I miss “just writing”.
However, those moments of just writing never fulfilled me. I missed out on the joy of sharing my work with others, my work lacked its other half, the reader. My work was bland without editing to make what I wrote better. My writing lacked a great many things and yet I was content with that. Since I always felt better just being able to write what was in my heart and get it on paper. I rarely tried to see if it could become anything. Most of the time what I wrote just sat in a notebook or drawer and did nothing but take up space on the page.
Those moments were easy compared to now when I have to think of things like Character Arc and Plot. Now I have to actively ask myself “and then what happened?” and “how can I make things worse for my character?” The days of random non-scenics storytelling are over for me. The days of hard work and hard writing are here to stay.
Hard writing used to be me writing about difficult things about my past or trying to muck through my feelings. Now I can include bits of those things in my stories and make them mean something. I’ve learned that writing through my feelings is often the only way to get to the heart of things or to remove my own personal obstacles. Hard writing used to be sitting down to write when I didn’t want to (oh wait, that is still a thing). Hard writing is still writing under pressure. Sometimes that is when the most precious gems appear though.
I still get to revisit the days of not caring if my writing is good in every first draft. While every first draft has it’s gems, it is usually surrounded by a lot of shit and that is the beauty of writing first drafts. You get to revisit that place of just writing whatever shit pops out of your head and get to run with it no matter how awful it is. One of my favorite mentors, Anne Lamott, recommends allowing yourself to “write shitty first drafts” as it is one of the best parts of the writing process.
To the joys of not finishing? Ah, well, there is no joy in that. When I go back to stories I started and left unfinished, they almost always remain that way. I try to finish and figure out where I was originally going with the story and I rarely can figure it out. These stories sit as dead soldiers in a to be done pile and we stare blankly at each other, never knowing what to do next. I can’t throw them away. I still hope these endings will find their way to me so that I can catch them and write it down.
So, every day I find myself “just writing” isn’t the same now. I have to do more and I now start with better ideas than before. I ask myself questions about what I am writing. I dig deeper than just the surface scratch and see if I can find fertile ground to work with. I push myself harder to get started but once I am going I can be unstoppable.
I know what I want to say or at least what I am trying to say. I told a friend of mine once that “Writing is like photography, you have to write a lot (take lots of pictures) and then even after you get something good, you still have to edit it and maybe it will look like what you envisioned in your head or with your eyes.” These things don’t always transmit well and it takes time and patience.
So while I might miss the old way, the new way is more satisfying and more complete. It is always a pleasure when someone reads what I have written and tells me they really liked it. Their whole face lights up much like mine when I write. It lets me know that my hard work is worth it and that no matter how hard it can be, it is a worthwhile thing that I do. Good writing will always be appreciated, by both the author and the reader. I am glad to be both.