Being a writer

"The End"

"The End"

To quote Stephen Fry quoting Clive James quoting Thomas Mann: “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.”

Stephen writes beautifully on what it’s like to find it difficult to write, and why it’s worth persevering, if you think you might be a writer.

As he points out at the end, “Of course finding it difficult and managing to complete are just the first stages. They are what earn you the uniform and the brass buttons, as it were.They don’t guarantee that what you complete is any good, or even readable,” but at least you have something to work with.

A big revelation for me was the detail that Elmore Leonard writes every day on pads of yellow legal paper and throws what he doesn’t like in the bin. And by the end of the day, the bin is full of scrunched up pages of yellow legal paper. But what’s left is sublime.

I thought, ‘If ELMORE LEONARD can throw stuff away, I sure as hell can’.

The best bits are never the ones that came easily. They’re the ones I had to sweat over, the ones that were never going to work, the ones that only started to make sense on the fourth rewrite.

I wrote something a couple of days ago when I was pushed for time in a cafe and it tripped off the keyboard. It was an echo of something I’d done a few chapters before and a very neat answer to a tricky problem. Too neat. I’m gearing up to rewrite it tomorrow. No idea how I’m going to do it, but it’s got to be done.

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than other people. Stephen went on to say he finds that liberating. He’s right. Perhaps that’s how you know if you are one: if your response to that statement is a joyful ‘Oh, BOY, you betcha!’, then chances are, you probably are.


One thought on “Being a writer

  1. I have memories of screaming at someone else in a roleplay because for thirty posts or so I had spent twenty or thirty minutes on two paragraphs cultivating a problem for the characters to get into. The person I was roleplaying with (oblivious to the fact that the storyline is more important than the end result) would solve the problem in one sentence.

    A shortened version went something like:

    “Oh no! There’s a canyon seperating us and the enemy! We have to find a way to cross before they escape!”

    “We could just use the bridge.”

    “We could have used the smoldering wreckage of the bridge had we gotten here moments earlier, but the enemy destroyed it!”

    “I’ve got a port-a-bridge. It’ll take me just ten seconds to set up.”

    “But you’ve already pulled a tool set, firewood, two weeks worth of food, a tent, a small fish tank, and enough gold to buy a dowry for a princess out of your pack. The port-a-bridge has no doubt strained your back, and you’re unable to continue.”

    “Actually, I think I’ve got something in my bag for–what?”

    *eye twitch*

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