Monday, January 2, 2017

The Fight with Form

Years ago I did this 'generative' writing workshop in a church hall and I complained to the teacher afterwards that I had too much writing and didn't know what to do with it. 'Just keep writing', she said. It was exasperating, as that was all well and good, but then what did you do with it all? How to form something from it? What I had didn't feel like a play, wasn't a book, wasn't anything really, just long passages of rambling writing. Cut to 2010 when I discovered a place I could house such ramblings, this blog. A blog, sneered a writer friend, is not a valid writing form. It, and social media, is for show-offs and hacks that don't know how to get published. I felt this was true, and loathed myself all the more, but still did it anyway. It felt good just to write for its own sake and nothing more, without having to ask for permission or please anyone in particular or fit any sort of criteria other than what you set yourself. And though the icky feeling was huge each time I published something, there was something satisfying in it I couldn't name. I made a pact to post something every day, even if it was a word, a sentence, a picture. There was something in the immediacy of that, the inability to protect myself from the armour of editing, the responsibility to perform regardless of the inevitable dryness and embarrassment that would come when I had nothing in particular to say. But it was those dry bits that were most interesting, like feeling naked on stage in an impro. The daily commitment meant having to find something even when the cupboard was bare, even if that was to explain the nothing feeling itself. 

Then, after a year or so I went back to doubting myself, and I was also more time-poor than ever, and thought: If I find a moment to write, I should be focusing on my book, or at least creating articles, short stories, publishable things, works of value, works of form. Work that is validated, valued. But I just stopped writing altogether. An idea would come and I would think of the form first, shape it, think of the audience... then get bored and leave the idea half-written, cursing my laziness. 

But then last week I started to wonder again about this idea of the un-destined writing, the daily deadline as form in itself. The pressure of having to find something, even when you're sitting up at midnight having just watched the final instalment of the OJ Simpson documentary and feeling dumbstruck and drained. I need to go to bed. And that is the way of this form. No magazine would ever publish this.    

No comments:

Post a Comment