02 February 2011

Why I Hate Writing

            I’m a scallywag for saying I hate writin’. Aye, ‘tis a bold faced lie. I’ll ‘fess up to being frustrated at times, at others, near death apoplectic, when a story takes a bad turn or characters won’t come out of hidin’. It can turn a writer wicked mean when lost at sea with no stars to guide you.
            The truth? What I hate has nothin’ to do with the writing itself. And I’ll bet a hogshead that there are a few of you who’ll know where I’m headed soon enough.
            But first, how in Hades did I board this writing ship in the first place? Here’s my tale.

One of my favorites

            Early on, it was an artist’s life for me. My love was working with live models in the studio around other artists who felt the same. Comin’ away with a stack of sketches gave me a swagger and somethin’ to show my mates and acquaintances. In my quarters, I’d work my charcoal and pencils to nubs, sometimes working the watercolors, too. I sold some pieces with little effort. Few can render an expression of a sad wench’s face or capture a body in movement, even if I do say so myself. For a final in a UO Advanced Drawing class I hung a series of large drawings of a friend I’d photographed, leaping off a couch, naked. The professor pulled a simple still life ink drawing from my pile of sketches and said, “Why didn’t you choose this one?” I wanted to say, Because it took a bloomin’ minute, max.
Bloomin' Ink Sketch
            Instead, I said, “Because it’s people and the human form that fascinate me.”
            He shook his head and said, “You’re better than you think you are.”
            So he thought I was insecure? No, my good man, your backhanded compliment missed the boat. What I wanted was someone to answer my unspoken question, “Why wasn’t I lovin’ the life?” I wanted someone to ask, “What are you doing here? Do you really want to be an artist? What are you passionate about?”
            Years later, I wondered why I had no drive to be an artist full-time, make a career of it. How in hell had I ended up there?

            Oddly and obviously, I learned through writing that we sail in certain directions for a variety of reasons, and those reasons become clear when something is closely examined. What is that “something?”

            Three clues, me hearties:
Glenn Close as Patty Hewes

            What should writers pay attention to in discovering their characters?
            What are therapists looking for when they’re digging around in their clients’ problems?
            What makes the Glenn Close character Patty Hewes on the brilliant show “Damages” so ruthless? (Yes, pirates watch TV. They’re lyin’ if they’re denyin’.)

            Answer?  Motive. Motive. Motive.
            Motive is the reason for doing something. And usually, the motive is hidden or not obvious. So why had I become a visual artist? What was my motive?
            Expeditions like this take years. Not ‘til long after schoolin’ or bringing in the doubloons in non-sailin’ jobs did I find the answer. When I finally dragged up a motive from the murky sea floor, there was my truth, aye, staring me in the face like a—

            Ey! What do we have here? A good mate has brought me my lunch, and I fear I’ll have to leave you hangin’. A hungry captain … well, is a dangerous captain.
            So, stay on board. I’ll be getting’ back with ya next week to finish this tale. (Hey, I’m a pirate! What did ya expect?) And I’ll be at the coast for a week of breathing salt air and doing that hated writing, har, har.

            ‘Till then, thanks heartily to the sixty-eight mates who have joined this expedition. You make me proud!
            And ye gentle men and lasses of fortune, stay away from bad motive people, you know, the kind who bring you or others misfortune. Thar are plenty of them on the high seas.

            To our sweet trade,
            Captain Val

Coming Up!
“The Tale, Continued”
“Sink or Swim: the Dangers of the Writing Life”

"The Fountain of Creative Ideas, or Why My Resume Wouldn't Land Me a Normal Job"
 "Platform, Flatform"
... and an interview with Jessica Maxwell of Roll Around Heaven