“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
I watched a movie the other night that felt like a startlingly accurate portrayal of a writer’s life. I mean this in the daily, mundane, trite sense of the term. Which movie? Deadline, starring the late Brittany Murphy. For those who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin it for you—there is a rather decent twist at the end. What I will tell you is that her time spent in solitude felt very much like what I experience on a daily basis. Well, minus most of the apparitions and at least half of the gruesome occurrences.
This won’t be the case for those of you who don’t write full time. If you have a 9-5, you’ve likely got something remotely resembling a schedule and while you may produce the same or higher volume than those of us left to our own devices, it all comes about in a very different way. The case is also different for authors who have a bulldog’s determination when it comes to the allocation of their time.
I have neither gainful employment nor any reasonable respect for the use of my time.
Alice, Brittany’s character in Deadline, staggers out of bed at an absurdly late hour after staying up to work on her script till the wee hours of the morning. She drags her ass to soak in the tub upon waking because she isn’t awake to do much of anything else. She forces herself downstairs to drink coffee and work some more: This consists of a lot of staring and leads to searching around the attic, the equivelant of which would be my googling whatever strange things pop into my mind at 4 0′ clock in the afternoon. Later in the evening, still sitting in front of the same blank page she sat in front of hours earlier, she pours a glass (or two) of wine and continues to plug away. Several pairs of comfy pants, flip flops, raggedy shirts and a gaggle of loose screws later, she emerges with a full manuscript—though the reader never actually sees her making much progress.
Aside from how clever I found the ending to be, I smiled because it felt like an autobiographical moment. I do that every day—I mope, I talk to the dogs, the wall and occasionally Stabler on SVU…and yet, for all the ‘not-writing’ I do, I manage to do an awful lot of writing. Sometimes I feel productive and other times, as Stephen King so aptly put it, I feel as though I’m shoveling shit from a sitting position. I’ll screw with a coma at noon and take it out all together by midnight. I’ve determined (probably later than I should have) that there is a great deal of creation that goes on in the stillness of a writer’s heart. Why else would we bolt awake from dreams with images so real they could have been shown right alongside Avatar?
You’ve probably known this for decades and should pity me for being so late in the game. I’m just glad I don’t have to continue flogging myself for waking up at 1:00 pm or remaining in my pajamas until company arrives. Now, this is not the usual for days when I am not working. When I’m officially ‘off’ the clock, I at least make the effort to seem outwardly presentable to the UPS delivery person.
This means that I’ve just recanted everything I said in an earlier post on how to become a successful freelancer. Those tips I gave you lasted a grand total of two days. They were a productive and miserable pair. So what about you? If you write from home and manage to look like a human at 4pm, do tell…