August 18, 2007

Writing - a "bone-crushing, nausea-inducing festival of self-loathing"

I love this description of the writing process by Tom Shroder, Editor of the Washington Post Magazine:

I'm sure there are writers who don't find writing to be a bone-crushing, nausea-inducing festival of self-loathing. I just don't happen to be one of them. Faced with a blank screen and a deadline for even the shortest, simplest piece, I am seized with the overwhelming desire to clean out my garage. Or do anything other than writing (up to and including root canal).

The problem seems to be standards. I have some. And I'm terrified I can't live up to them. I've found that to make myself write anything at all, I have to begin by lowering my sights, and simply try to write something bad. Don't even write, I tell myself, just type.

He goes on to introduce a piece on Ralph Ellison, who never finished his second book.

As his page count rose, so, too, did his standards. No matter who told him his work was brilliant, it was never brilliant enough for Ellison.

Actually, I like Tom Shroder's weekly "Editor's Notes". But I'm sure no matter how many times I told him they were brilliant, he'll still be cleaning his garage as the deadline approaches.



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