Nitty Gritty Pretty One – writing angst


The running theme through my life has been organisation, structure and my lack of them. My handwriting is an illegible mess. The old idea of an infinite amount of monkeys with an infinite amount of typewriters? My freehand looks like an infinite amount of monkeys with an infinite amount of crayons. Caused problems between me and the kitchen when I was a waitress. My various bedrooms have always looked like a piece of art entitled “dire need of storage”. I hardly ever have my week organised and I never keep a diary.

One of the many reasons I have chosen writing as a career is that my remarkable lack of logic and order shouldn’t bee too much of a problem. My skills of making stuff up far exceed my ability to retain facts. New technology means people can actually decipher my writing as it comes in a handy menu of fonts and save for windings they are all readable. In front of a keyboard I can let loose my scattered brain and dress it up with bitchin similes and make a fortune. The fact I never developed a left side of my brain is a help rather than a hindrance.

I got some feedback at University this week on a piece I wrote during exam period last year. My prof, a bouncy enthusiastic type, praised my ideas and saw what I was “trying” to do but once again came out with the critique that has followed me around my whole life. I lack structure. I need to work on my sentences and their varying lengths, my paragraphs need to be paragraph shaped and my prose style needs streamlining. I understood entirely what he meant and nodded along. I could tell here stood a man who has read enough rambling stream of consciousness pieces from me to bewilder him forever. He told me read the guide books, read some essays from Orwell and other accomplished types, work out what you’re trying to say and edit.

Editing is my first problem. After I write I’m reluctant to go through it again, sure I’ll find some glaring flaw and cringe at the thought of anyone else reading it. Inevitably when I do read through my work I vary between “this is worse than fifty shades of grey” and “hey I’m pretty good!”. As they say writing is rewriting, I simply need to force myself through my work and adopt an objective eye and kill my darlings, as Hemingway said. This ruthlessness is not in my nature, after struggling to find the right word for ages deleting it later on can feel counter productive. The scenes in ‘Throw Momma from the Train’ where Billy Crystal’s writer tries to come up with the end to his opening  sentence “The night was…” are extremely relateable. The word, in the end, is ‘sultry’.

My best writing fuel is actually being passionately involved with what I’m writing. If I’m looking forward to what I’m about to put down it can come out fully baked in a single session and I still look at it with pride years later. If I’m staring blankly at the screen trying to find my ‘sultry’ I normally give up. However when you’re doing it as a degree you don’t have the option to give up on certain things. They have to be finished and before the deadline. What results is a disjointed waffling that I want to forget ever happened. Perhaps structure is not something I need to achieve but something I should free myself from. Script writing comes with its own structure which oddly allows for more freedom. I don’t have to worry about it, it’s been hollywood law for years. Poetry as well has a rhythm which is discernible to writer and reader.

The main struggle is getting the grand vision in my head down on paper. I can’t do the George R.R. Martin trick of intricate and interwoven plots which pay off spectacularly, at least not yet. I can lose steam quickly when I don’t know how to shape my ideas. The best way to work is backwards, a mildly exciting idea that grows out like ivy and becomes something much bigger than you originally designed. It’s a brilliant surprise and a great ego boost. Then comes the boring stuff. The nitty gritty, the editing and rewriting and making sure it makes sense to your readers. This, I’m told, I have to learn and now. I’m capable of it, It just needs to become natural.