Peggy Bechko: Tomorrow May Be Hell

neil-gaiman-on-hell

by Peggy Bechko

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”

Been there, done that?

Yep, I can empathize with Mr. Gaiman. (you can read more about him as fantasy novel writer/comic writer/filmwriter at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Gaiman if you’re interested) I think most writers can. It’s an everyday fact of life for us.

I guess there are many out there reading who might say don’t think about those things so much, don’t over analyze. In fact, just shut up and write.

Well, easier said than done since most of us writers spend our time thinking one way or another. Thinking about the story we’re working on, thinking about a new idea, thinking about characters, thinking about whether our spouses are considering homicide on us since we’ve been writing for three days straight barely emerging to eat and conversing only in distracted grunts.

So of course your writing day comes up in your thoughts; you’re exhilarated when it’s a good one to the point of euphoria. We won’t talk about the days when the writing is just bad, the words all jumbled and the ideas don’t flow. Or if we do talk about them we’ll just grunt.

And I have to agree with Mr. Gaiman there as well – presuming the ‘hell’ he’s referring to is a not so good writing day. There are few things as insanely difficult or frustrating to a writer as the almost idea that rolls around, and around, and around, and just won’t coalesce. One can compare it to a baker who’s bread just lies there flat, not rising, or a miner digging for gold and comes up only with rock.

Only the writer’s hell is even worse. Why? Because the writer is dependent on his or her own thought processes, ideas, and spinnings to move forward. The baker or the miner may well be frustrated, but the solutions available are a little more different and direct. No gold? Dig in another place. No rising? Try fresher yeast.

So what pulls one of those hellish days out of the quagmire? Talent. Time. Plunging ahead even if it’s bad. Or sometimes just plain dumb luck. Maybe the dog does something obnoxious that triggers an idea. Or something is overheard in conversation or on the radio. Or your pressing ahead just results in a ‘breakthrough’ from you know not where. That brings with it a special euphoria of its own. That can turn a bad writing day into a good one.

Perhaps we writers are a little self-indulgent at times (ya think?) but there’s no escaping the fact that the kind of work we do sows those seeds.

Still, it’s best we writers keep in mind that that ‘hell’ is a private sort of ‘hell’. If we’re fortunate enough to have a partner who understands it, so much the better. If not, it’s all ours.

And procrastination isn’t going to help. So just dig in.

It’s going to be a great writing day.