Killer Year–The Class of 2007


To Have Written
February 21, 2007, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Bill Cameron, Killer Year Members

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
– Gene Fowler

“I do not like to write. I like to have written.”
– Gloria Steinem

First, a disclosure. I always thought that “drops of blood” quote came from Red Barber. I don’t know why, but at least one or two others I’ve talked to about it thought so too, so I’m not alone. Misinformed, it seems, but not alone. Anyway, I found out it was Gene Fowler when I did a search to make sure I had the exact wording of the quote.

And that whole “like to have written,” thing? I’ve lived my life believing Dorothy Sayers said it. So I guess what I’m saying is take my “knowledge” for what it’s worth.

So why with these quotes? Well, here’s the thing. I like writing. In fact, I love writing. I love the process, the tension, the agony, the sense of accomplishment (even when a re-read dashes that sense of accomplishment into dust).

By some accounts, this makes me unusual among writers. Seems like so many writers speak of the pain and difficulty of writing. I’m not sure I can even count the number of writers who’ve echoed the quotes above as gospel. Many, many have.

Just between you and me, I think that’s a buncha hooey. I believe a lot more writers enjoy writing than seem willing to admit. After all, only a very silly person would submit him or herself to the unrelenting suffering of writing if it really was such unrelenting suffering. Sure, some people like to suffer, and a lot of those folks may very well be writers. But all of them?

By day, I’m a graphic designer, with a focus on web development and product packaging. It’s good work, something I enjoy — for the most part. Like any job, some days are better than others, but the work has kept me fed and watered for twenty-plus years. And I’ve done a lot of projects over the years of which I am very proud. I’ve had graphic design days when I just felt ON. “Look at that,” I’ve exclaimed. “Isn’t it cool?!” And clients have actually said to me, “Yeah, baby!” and given me the high five! In real life, not just in my imagination.

On the writing side, I’ve had plenty of those “drops of blood” days. Hell. I’ve had plenty of days when a drop of blood would have been nice for a change. I’m as familiar with the suffering of writing as the next guy. I’ve stared at my monitor, dull-eyed and depressed, convinced I was playing a joke on myself. I’ve produced prose drivel that would embarrass Dan Brown. And sometimes I’ve surprised myself and written something real live people actually enjoyed reading.

I love it all. My worst day writing is so much better than my best day graphic designing you might as well be comparing an orgasm to a root canal. I’ve come to crave that time when I can slip away from the day job to write like I crave my next breath.

George Orwell said, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.” I hesitate to disagree with Orwell, but on this one we’re gonna have to diverge. Sure, it can be exhausting, it can be draining. It’s a process that can ripple with anxiety. But, for me, it’s that wonderful kind of exhaustion I feel at the end of a great day at the beach, swimming and playing and getting sunburned. It’s the drained satisfaction I feel after a beautiful day hiking at timberline. And the anxiety? That helps me know I’m pushing my limits. It tells me there’s a chance I might even be growing a little.

Sure, I love to have written. But I’d never get there if I didn’t love the act of writing itself.

Bill Cameron
Lost Dog
Available April 2007 from Midnight Ink Books

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9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Perfect. You describe the act so well. I love the writing too, Bill. Great post!

Comment by JT Ellison

And I loved this post.

Comment by Dave White

You’re a graphic designer? Pardon me while I focus off-topic. Uh…

Okay, back to the topic at hand. No, writing sucks. Clearly, you are just flat-out wrong.

Okay, no, that’s not completely true. Writing at the lake with a cool breeze in the early morning and a cup of hot joe… Aha. I’m with Steinem, except that I do like the act of writing.

Or should I say, “acting like I’m writing”?

You should try it. Pfft, why go to all the trouble of actually putting words down? You can have all the fun without actually doing anything constructive!

Except… then you don’t get to enjoy having written. Oh crap.

Comment by bekbek

bekbek, you caused me to spray half-chewed oatmeal on my computer monitor!

Comment by Bill Cameron

I think Red Barber is the one who said “Writing is easy – you just sit down and open a vein.”

Or something like that.

And I agree with your take on the pain of it all 100%.

Comment by Guyot

I used this quote recently (though I thought it was Dorothy Parker, not Steinem?) to describe how I feel about the thrillers I write, while the humorous stuff is more fun day to day. That said, I have to write the thrillers, they’re an addiction, but I don’t know if I love the process with them. It’s a bit painful, though rewarding. Kind of like sex with some past boyfriends?

Comment by Regina Harvey

Maybe the agony comes when you have a looming deadline? When the words just won’t come and you know you have to get ‘er done fast. That pressure would produce panic and agony!

Comment by Tracy

You know, Regina, you’re right. It wasn’t Dorothy Sayers I thought said it, it was Dorothy Parker. See, this is my brain: o.O

Regarding deadlines, I have to admit, I haven’t had to write fiction on a strict deadline yet. My second novel is on a deadline mostly agreed to between myself and my agent, with plenty of flex. I don’t have a contract for it yet (just a right of first refusal), so it’s mostly on me. Down the line, should I end up with multi-book contracts with strict deadlines, I may feel differently about the process. I know with some graphic design deadlines it can get pretty damned painful!

Comment by Bill Cameron

I’m with you, Bill. Having written is awesome, but nothing beats a great day of just writing.

Comment by patry




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