On the first night of every new writing class I teach, I have the students introduce themselves and be greeted in the manner of an AA meeting ("Hi, my name is Melvin..." "Hi, Melvin!!!"). This is not an arbitrary ritual.
The writing junkie: No matter how many times we quit it, we go back. No matter how sick the process makes us, we keep at it; no matter how we endeavor to reduce the dosage ("One little blog post - how could that hurt?"), soon enough we need more and more of it ("This novel ought to only take me a few years").
Reams have been written (this in itself a testament to the awesome power of the disease) about the wonders and attendant angst of the writing process. Yet despite the terrible reputation of this pursuit (no one's scientifically determined the ratio of joy to horror, but my money's on higher figures for the latter), we obsessively pursue it.
Everybody has their reasons. I suspect that for me it's about control: It's only by having a self-created alternate reality continuously unfolding in my head that I can cope with the general hopelessness of trying to affect, you know, reality. So without my daily writing fix I'm prone to copelessness.
Not that getting one's fix is fun. The terror of facing the blank page has been plentifully chronicled. I consider myself a curator of procrastination methods, and I can't count how many times over the past three months spent writing the first draft of a screenplay, I used up almost all of my allotted writing time in trying to avoid writing. Yet here I am, barely four days past completion, fingers shaking, stomach quaking, psyche unsettled, brain nettled - itching to have that empty screen in front of me again, and bitching about its absence. It's like that Woody Allen joke from the beginning of Annie Hall:
Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ‘em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know; and such small portions.’
For Alvy Singer, this is a metaphor about life; I'm applying it to the writing life. Why would I want to be back in that particular saddle, after having been bucked and thrown from it on a near-daily basis? If you're a writer, you know why, of course - there's something inarguably divine about the experience when it happens to go right - but still...
Still, it helps to be mindful that such is the junkie's life. I was complaining in an e-mail to a writer friend yesterday that I was in a funk, had become a slug, didn't want to go anywhere nor do any thing, that I felt worthless, in despair over having wasted the best years of my life, etc. His succinct reply: It's called finishing a script.
Right. So as I dutifully practice my own preaching (i.e. I always put away and lock up a draft for a minimum of two weeks after completing it), I'm trying to come up with ways to cope. Bicycling is generally helpful. An Allagash can be pretty effective. But boy, am I open to suggestion.
What do you do for your writing withdrawals? Living the RomCom wants to know.