Why do we do it?

by Ian Clements

I’m sure you know the feeling: it’s all going so badly that you start to write “and the monster came out and it was scary and his blood curdled” just to try and make light of things and wrong-foot your internal critic.  One of those sessions where the words are just that: words.  No flavour, no rhythm, no pace.  You start to wonder why the hell you’re doing this in the first place.

For me it was routine enough.  I wrote a few stories when I was young, usually starring all my friends and Daleks.  Much love for the Daleks.  I remember being set a story to write in infant school and, despite the day ending, I was so excited I finished it at home and ran back to give it to my teacher while she was still tidying up.  Then a few years on I’d draw comic strips, creating narrative that way, before I read Stephen King’s ‘The Mist’ when I was sixteen and thought: “I could probably do this”.  I proceeded to make all the mistakes in the book and write some really bad stories.  Back then there was no expectation.  I’d just start building a world and cutting out some 2D characters to wobble their way through it. 

These days I sit down to the page with more wariness than thrills.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when I delight at what I’ve created but now writing feels…..well, at least as much a compulsion as it is a passion.  Every rational bone in my body tells me not to do it.  Acceptance rates, authors with second jobs, merciless amazon reviews.  I’m terrified of these things but I can’t stop, no matter how much I may want to.  Get serious about writing and there’s a good chance you’ll get serious about depression, alcoholism, drug abuse.  You want to make something perfect but you’re not a perfect human being; your fingers aren’t brushes, they’re meat and bone, and your mind will always imagine a grander vision than you could ever commit to paper.  Even the greatest artists and writers go off the deep end because the masterpieces they create are still just hints of what they see.  The more you uncover the more you believe is possible.

Think of it as uncovering a fossil, if you just dusted off one portion then eventually you’d go mad trying to imagine the rest of it; that’s what made H.P Lovecraft so great, he understood that a hint is self-perpetuating, it provides no conclusion but it also demands one.  What Alan Moore said about writing was correct: “Don’t do it”.  You won’t be able to get away.

Still, it’s no good, we’re here.  So how did you come to be stuck on this crazy train?