Mundane, Mysterious and Bloody Acts of Writing

Photo on 2014-09-10 at 11.34 #2Lucy the Canine Muse says hello while I’m writing at my desk


Today I reviewed the introduction and chapter one of my book, which I wrote several years ago.

I was totally appalled with certain sections that I used to think were rock-solid.  

I wondered things such as, “What on EARTH was I thinking?”, “Why-oh-why didn’t I see those errors? I have an English degree, dammit!”,  and “Whhaaaaaaat?

Writing is so strange.  If I write a few paragraphs and wait just one day, I always find ways to improve them.  Always.  At the very least I find egregious, embarrassing typos and/or syntax bugaboos.  More often than not I find entire sections that need to be changed or cut.

It’s perplexing, and it raises my blood pressure, but I also find this phenomenon fascinating.

When is a piece of writing done?  The pattern that I describe shows that writing is never truly complete, and that it can always be smoother, wittier, more profound, and even 100% grammatically correct.  The same concept could be applied to any creative pursuit, of course.  

I guess it’s about acceptance of the imperfect, and about setting limits with one’s examination (navel gazing?) of one’s writing.  That sounds simple enough, right?

Oooooh, it’s not simple!  Not for this silly procrastinating perfectionist!

I’ve also been daydreaming about other aspects of writing, i.e. what inspires us to write,  and “the flow” of creativity that descends upon us when we least expect it.

The other day I listened to an interview with Neil Finn, who is one of my favorite singer/songwriters of Crowded House.  Neil was being interviewed about Crowded House’s album “Time On Earth”.  That album holds special meaning for me because some of its songs are about the suicide of Neil’s best friend, a gifted musician named Paul Hester, Crowded House’s drummer.  I met Paul in New Zealand when I flew there to basically stalk Crowded House, and he was charming, kind and funny with me, since I was a nervous wreck.  He reportedly suffered with bipolar disorder.   I write more about Paul and Neil here:

Neil’s interview closed with his observations of the songwriting process.  He mused,

 “Tapping into the divine inspiration – I have no idea and I never will,  I don’t think…it always seems like it’s harder every time, but it probably isn’t.  It’s probably the same.  The contradiction being in the whole process is that when it happens it’s effortless, and getting to the point of where it’s effortless is an internal struggle, so I don’t know…I don’t understand it.”

As Neil discussed his songwriting I realized that his thoughts about “divine inspiration” applies to writing a book as well as a song.   My ears pricked up when he mentioned “internal struggle”.  I’m not feeling like anything is effortless this morning, nor do I feel graced with divine inspiration, although there’s plenty of internal struggle going on!  (Note to Wendy K. Williamson, bestselling author of I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living with Bipolar, if you’re reading this, I promise not to whine too much in future posts. Well, maybe.)



Recently the writer Jeff Smith of Higher Trust Marketing shared a Ernest Hemingway quote with me that gave me pause:

“There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

I’m no Hemingway, and I never will be (or aim to be) for that matter!  What I do want is for my writing to be consistently good, insightful, and ultimately helpful to others.  Do I really need to “bleed” in order to do that?  

I hope not.  

I’ve suffered enough, like all of you reading this.  No bleeding, please.  

As some you know, my goal is to finish the draft by my birthday!  At this point the only birthday present I want for the rest of my birthdays is to finish the damn draft! 😉  I’ll keep you posted.

Have a GOOD weekend, dear readers!!!



11 thoughts on “Mundane, Mysterious and Bloody Acts of Writing

  1. One of the many problems with writing is that the more you do it the better you tend to get, especially in the early stages. So if you start out pretty early with something novel sized you’ll never get far into it before your style and technique has changed so much as to render your previous work inferior or incompatible. So you revise from scratch. But that changes how you write too so by the end of your revision the start of it doesn’t look right anymore. So you revise again.

    That’s the difference between writing and scribbling.

  2. Your writing process brings to mind Flannery O’Connor who painfully rewrote and rewrote her works amidst her own concurrent physical pain. She, too, had a chronic illness — in her case, lupus.

    • That’s interesting (and a shame) that Flannery O’Connor had a chronic illness and it’s incredible she managed to write & re-write all the while. I’m so lucky that lupus isn’t something I contend with – you know I have my other problems, but thank God not that one.

      On a separate note, one of my writing mentors (Wendy K. Williamson) keeps reminding me to just write the bloody first draft. Go from point a to point b – no lollygagging in between! I know she’s right, but I’ve been reviewing chapters ad nauseum because that’s how I procrastinate!

      Wendy also made it clear that it *WILL* be a shitty first draft, since all of them are. (I’ve read about that writing reality before – I think it was in Natalie Goldberg’s book “Writing Down the Bones” twenty years ago!)

      So I need to keep writing and stop navel gazing, or Chapter One gazing, because it’s cramping my style! If I keep at the rate I’m going, this thing won’t be done until I’m 90!


  3. Greetings cabrogal, lord of the drool! Your comment makes perfect sense to me! Revision shall be my middle name…but only after I spew out the “shitty first draft” that most people apparently produce.

    Sometimes I think, “I could just give this whole thing up!”, especially since it seems that everyone and his mother, his pet hamster and his colony of spiders are writing memoirs. But there is something within my fuzzy brain that keeps driving me to write, even if the end result sucks. So off I go, to hopefully write, and not scribble!

    I send you my best wishes as always – I hope you post to your blog soon so I can exercise my brain – it’s getting flabby.

      • Oh good, I’ll read the post at that link you provided, but I’m disappointed you won’t be post ingsoon! I hope you’re okay!!! Thanks for replying – I always enjoy hearing from you.

      • The title alone (“Why I’ll Never Be A Writer”) completely grabbed my interest. I have to put the rug rats to bed, but then I shall reward myself with a read. I’ll let you know what I think….

        p.s. You *are* a Writer as far as I’m concerned – one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

    • Good to see ya here, J!!!!! Hope you are doing well too – yeah, I don’t usually watch the large amount of videos, interviews etc. on Neil’s website of CH/Enz etc., but that one jumped out at me!

      Sending you a big hug and thanks so much for reading, & for your kind words 🙂
      take good care! Dy

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