There are authors out there — I know, I’ve read their blogs — for whom writing, most of the time, is a giggly delight. Inventing richly-detailed, sparkly worlds full of fascinating characters and thrilling events! Writing considered as Getting Away With Something! Gosh, I just can’t believe I get to do this! HEY, KIDS, LET’S PUT ON A NOVEL!
Those folks represent one end of a continuum of attitudes. The other end is occupied by Mr. Earbrass’s Hand-Permanently-Attached-To-Furrowed-Brow School, for whom writing is a constant torment. The unbearable and unbridgeable distance between the idea and the words on the page! The horror of composition, matched only by the horror of revision, followed by the unspeakable traumas attendant upon publication and reception from the outside world! YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFICULT IT IS.
I readily confess that I more frequently play for Team Earbrass than Team GoshWow. But the other day, I spent a significant chunk of time in the GoshWow corner, and being me, decided I should analyze the characteristics of that writing session to see if I could perhaps replicate it more often.
Some Factors Involved That One Time (Sunday, Actually) When I Had Fun Writing
1. I had exercised earlier that day. Sara Zarr and I have discussed the miracle of the elevated heart rate at some length. There’s something about focusing on your body (and perhaps the awesome selections on your portable music device) that frequently manages to shake ideas loose.
2. I knew what scenes I’d be working on, and what each one needed to accomplish. The project I’m working on, the graphic novel Bad Houses, has a detailed outline, and — GoshWow! — I have found that working from an outline helps me considerably. (The actual process of making the outline, on the other hand, sends me right back to Earbrass. But we’ll ignore that for now.)
3. I was able to picture, vividly, what the scenes would look like when transformed into comics panels by the capable hand of my collaborator, Carla Speed McNeil. (This could be said to argue that I should write nothing but comics & graphic novels in future, but it can also be interpreted as relating to #2: being very clear about the point of the scenes.)
4. It was nice out. Okay, so I can’t actually control for the presence of sunshine-generated mood-lifting Vitamin D, but, you know, I could drink more milk maybe? (In a latte, of course.)
Writers who are reading, where do you fall on the continuum? And what makes you veer in one direction or the other?
JemiahFebruary 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm
I’m usually more of a GoshWow, when it’s possible for me to do it at all. I find it nearly impossible to write unless I’m inspired, and if I’m inspired, everything that’s NOT writing is incredibly difficult and viciously irritating. And outlining, for me, is a blast – that’s when it’s just “And then – and then – ooh, yeah that, too! That’ll be cool. And BAM! And THEN…” etc. Actually putting down the words, in the right order, correctly, is the harder part. But it’s all pretty much good.
Note: everything gets harder and more unpleasant when there’s money or deadlines involved, particularly because I don’t have a choice about being inspired then; I have to write no matter what. If I was inspired enough to agree to doing it in the first place, I can slog through without enthusiasm, and apparently it doesn’t affect the quality of the resulting work. But I don’t feel good about it.
Liz ArgallFebruary 9, 2010 at 10:25 pm
I absolutely oscillate between the two. My greatest problem has been that when I’m in the GoshWow state (as Jemiah indicated) is that I am so excited that I can’t actually write! I’m too busy pacing the room and waving my hands.
Over the years (and especially after listening to a panel of comedians at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne last year) I’ve got better at actually capturing the GoshWow and doing something useful with it. GoshWows are slippery creatures that require skill, presence of mind and determination to capture.
Earbrass is more reliable, if painful. It’s the hard slogging that lays the foundation, keeps the work going and helps me to have the presence of mind to grab the GoshWow when it slips into my ear. I think I almost have a 20% capture rate now!
Jim O.February 10, 2010 at 6:13 am
Earbrass here, for the most part. If I could figure out how to hang with GoshWow I would, of course, but it’s usually around the corner and down the hill before I even realize we were walking together for a while. And GoshWow often leaves me with a headache so maybe it’s for the best.
(Most recently a few weeks ago when I woke up, so to speak, to find that I had solved a problem visually that I didn’t think had a solution at all. I could barely see straight, but I was happy.)
ClaireFebruary 10, 2010 at 6:29 am
Definitely a bit of both, at different times. First chapters, second chapters, endings, and the odd moment in between = a world of GoshWow. Middles = a decent proportion of Earbrass-ness.
sara z.February 10, 2010 at 6:31 am
It has been so long since I’ve seen GoshWow. (Come to me, lassie! Here, girl! *rattles bowl of kibble*)
I also think it’s like Jim O. says, for me, that when I’m enjoying it I don’t really realize and/or appreciate it while it’s happening.
What makes me veer into Earbrass? Being a perfectionist is a big part of it. It’s hard for me to let go and just have fun, even if it’s bad. Also plot problems…er…challenges. Editorial letters. The middles of first drafts. The beginnings of second drafts.
Funny, I don’t usually work from an outline or any real structure, but my plan today is to compile notes on and completely outline draft 2. I want to tackle all plot questions and research issues NOW, so that I’m not in the same boat at end of draft 2. It makes so much sense. I can almost feel a GoshWow moment coming if I pull it off…
SaraFebruary 10, 2010 at 7:22 am
It is so fun and interesting to read these answers! (She says, GoshWowily.) I love seeing how differently folks approach the same basic activity.
I also like the personification of GoshWow as a delighted canine. What would Earbrass be? (Boa constrictor?)