Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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Ouch, I think I pulled my cerebellum

Writing is a lot like physical exercise. It requires a warm up, exertion, and recovery time. It's easy to forget this. I've had a lot of output lately and I'm starting to feel tapped out. That's okay. It happens. I'll recover. Right now I have a piece to write that's more or less "Why there aren't any Jewish Ninjas" and then I'm done except for a few movie scenes that I want pound out. I got one out yesterday in an effort to contextualize a few lines I wanted to get down and it was immensely satisfying for me. I don't think it was particularly entertaining or interesting for anyone else, and there's more I want to get down. Don't worry, it will be filtered for anyone not foolish enough to indicate a masochistic desire to see it in the poll (And blorky I must commend you on your playful irony.)

This is not just about my writing though. I'm not a professional writer, just a person who writes. (Insert "poorly" "you're not really a PERSON" and "eat a dick" comments from the peanut gallery) I think the athletic style requirements of writing explain a good deal about the patterns of production of many authors. Most of the truly great, or at least truly original, ones only produce occasionally. A Thomas Pynchon or a J.D. Salinger or a Charlie Kaufman is going to go years in between producing something that they publish. After all is said and done, all the editing and reworking and rewriting, they come out well short of a page a day of production. They're marathoners, pacing themselves to put together something spectacular.

Then you've got your second tier that produces consistently and well. Here's where I'd put the David Mamets of the world. Don't get me wrong, I like Mamet a lot and I think he has a few masterpieces, but he's not consistent and he's pretty specialized. He produces plays/movies with interesting plot twists and sharp dialogue. That's his thing, and it's great. His 3-4 great works are probably masterpieces, and his lesser works are really solid. Maybe you could consider him like a Michael Phelps. He's going to get in the pool a lot, win a few gold medals, and make a splash in the other events. This metaphor is really strained but it's too late for me to pull back now.

Then you've got your, not hacks per se, but consistent producers. These are the people who write television shows, magazine articles, or pulp novels. They do far more than a page a day, and they can be very good, but they are generally not very good for very long, not without a break somewhere along the line. I think this is partially why television shows often go downhill quickly after a season or two, if they rely on strong writing. The original writers get burned out at that production level, like an athlete getting injured from competing too often without rest, and either drop out or tail off in quality. Sometimes they're replaced with someone equal to the challenge, usually not. There are only so many ideas in a head at a given time and you need to replenish that. Larry David worked on Seinfeld, not alone, for like 4-6 years. He was constantly worried about running out of ideas and not being funny. He burned out left, came back before he was ready to write a pretty lousy finale, and then went on to NOT write one of the funniest shows on television. The thing about Curb is that it's a 10 page outline, a few funny lines, and a lot of improv. Curb is about direction and editing and acting, not writing. Larry David's still burned out, he's just finding another way to express himself while his writing muscles recover. I believe that.

This is one of the reasons why HBO shows are so lauded. It's because they take the time to get the writing right. The Sopranos is on an 18 month hiatus not because it's going to take that long to shoot it but because everyone needs time to rest their creative muscles and do other things. You maintain quality by pacing yourself. The Networks burn most of their shows out. Scrubs is starting to show wear. Even with 6-7 talented people behind the scenes it takes a whole lot of effort to churn out 26 episodes a year. That's thousands of pages. It's exhausting.

Anyway, the point I was making in regards to me is that I'm currently getting my writing in shape along with my body, and it's a long difficult process, and there will be some missteps along the way. The first time Larry Bird stepped into a gym to shoot 3-pointers he threw up clankers just like anyone else. Nobody knew he was Larry Bird until he'd been doing it for years and the shots were falling for him more than for other people.

It takes patience. That's something I don't have a lot of but am trying to get more of. It takes practice and effort and there will be times, like now, when I feel tapped and disgusted with my stuff and ready to give up and apply for a 100 hour a week job as a financial analyst, hoping that maybe a degree can open some doors in that area. But I won't do that. I will let my head cool and rest, spend some time reading and relaxing and thinking and HOPEFULLY ANY DAY NOW working on something else and restocking. Maybe I'll step back and actually do some editing. That would probably be the best way to go, although it's something I've started to a small degree. Baby steps here, it's only been a few months of dedication, rome wasn't built by teamsters. Then I'll try again. Hopefully I'll improve. You don't know whether you're going to be Larry Bird or Raef LaFrenz the first time you step into the gym. To some degree you can't control that. All you can control is how hard you try.
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