Now I fully realize this is a blog about photography. Why, you ask, is she addressing the topic of writing? And on a photography blog, no less?
There is an explanation.
For better or worse, for a little over five years now I’ve been paying the rent and putting gas in my car by an ever-changing combination of both photography and writing. One month, it may be all photography. The next nearly all writing. In the best months, the two come together and when I audit the bookkeeping at the end of the month, the two separate worlds almost balance each other out. And now, as I find myself juggling a day job of writing the outdoor voice for the oldest and largest fly-fishing company in the US and running Fire Girl Photography, I spent more than my fair share of time whacking away at a keyboard.
Writing is a funny thing.
Some days it just happens. The words write themselves, seemingly coming together far more elegantly than I could ever hope to herd them. They tell stories, evoke a mood, drive home a point. Thousands of words appear on a blank white page in the space of an hour, and I find myself sitting back and wondering what the hell just happened.
Those are the best days. When it flows, the words often actually make sense—more sense than I could hope to in other moods—and little editing is required. I can knock multiple projects off in one session and then still have the reserve to jot out a few pages of fiction drivel, the equivalent of the brain kicking back with a cold one.
And then there are the bad days.
Desk decor at FGP headquarters. A gift from a military friend and a keen reminder to just roll with it.
Deadlines are looming, I worked eighteen hours yesterday, coffee just isn’t cutting it and I really don’t want to be sitting at a desk. These are the days when creating a headline, a caption, or even a blog post is a monumental struggle. Mentally a little voice squeaks, “so, you think you can write, huh?”
I’ve learned the best way—the only way—to tackle this mode is to crank up the music and just start writing. Anything. Everything. Drivel. Fiction. Poetry. Yeah, it may be rubbish, but get something on the page and suddenly the rest will follow. It’s rather like unstoppering a bottle of well-shaken champagne. Once it gets going, stand back. Game on and the words are coming out come hell or high water.
I’ve been known to sit in a parking lot and fill a page or two with random vignettes. I have long since kept a notebook and pen close at hand in my car for just this reason.
In reality, most days are somewhere in between. Words aren’t hiding, but they aren’t exactly forthcoming, either. It takes a bit of digging, a bit of coaxing. Over the years I’ve learned little tricks that help me write better—how to sit, what to drink, what music is best for writing certain types of pieces. It’s the odd little things.
They say writers are weird. Maybe we are. But, hell, it’s fun.
Recently I had someone functioning of an editor of sorts tell me the words “just weren’t right” and, when I asked for direction, looked at me, shrugged, and said “I don’t know. Rewrite it.”
It was already the fourth rewrite.
Writing involves more than its fair share of metaphorical banging one’s head against the wall. On tough days I miss my Krav Maga gym in Austin more than anything, the urge to go wail on a training partner or a punching bag nearly overwhelming. I stand for shadowboxing in the gym and doing burpees until I calm down and the words start to make sense again.
No pressure, they say, as a coworker tells me, “We need Hemingway.” It’s 3:30 and suddenly we’re on deadline for 5:00.
Writing is like poking at a puzzle. Sometimes you have to approach it from many different directions, poking and prodding each time. Eventually one poke or prod will slide the pieces into place, or at least near enough that you can being to see the pattern. It’s a lot of head cocking and staring into space. But, eventually, the puzzle pieces start to click together.
After listening to me rant one night last week, an old friend sent me this excerpt from a book (that remains unnamed). I don’t know the context, but I can appreciate the underlying message: “… and it’s my job to tell you who uses the word malfeasance. If you could write, you’d write your own books.”
For some reason I found the two lines entirely too entertaining, and copied them to my desktop.
And have resolved to use the word malfeasance in an article before the year is up.
(Of note, any aspiring writers would do well to visit guru Tom Chandler’s copywriting blog The Writer Underground. Go. Read. Learn. Absorb.)