30 October 2014

Writing and Work

It would seem that in brilliant writing what's at work is a brilliant mind. But what I have found more often than not is that the amount of work that goes into it is what is payed back; if you don't put in the work, you just don't get good writing.

Louis Pasteur said, "In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind." In writing, the mind is prepared by writing. That's the work. That is the hard and inglorious work that must precede any good writing.

Writing is such hard work, that I continually draw inspiration and encouragement from the likes of Samuel Beckett, "Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again! Fail again! Fail better!"

Science takes a dry, clinical view of it; a failed experiment is just as valuable as a so-called successful experiment; either way information is obtained; more data; more knowledge. Progress.

And so it is with writing. You write something. It isn't right. You rewrite it. You get an idea in that process. It's like getting closer to a destination you can see it better as you get near, as you reach the crest of a certain hill, you can perfectly see what you need to do. But you have to go down into another dip and then up over another further hill. It is  these ups and downs and the movement and the work of movement that makes the progress.

Anyone who's written much has usually asked themselves at some point, "why writing?" Who would want to be a writer?! It's such hard work. And it's all about the end product. The process itself is miserable. I've heard one journalist explain the process of writing as, "you bang your head against the screen until blood comes out. That's writing."

But for those of who have been bitten by the writing bug, what we become attached to is the idea of improvement, so that the process of arriving at the end product - a piece of writing - becomes less painful and more rewarding. Perhaps we will learn something. Learning something interesting that you would not have found out any other way makes the process by which you learned itself of value.