A strange thing about writing…

It seems very strange to me, that I have two modes in considering things I have written (prose fiction, that is, though the same is true to a lesser extent of non-fiction, and non-narrative fiction).

In the one mode I enjoy what I have written – really enjoy it, am proud of it, want to boast of it, am satisfied with it.

In the other mode, every single sentence I have ever written is vomit-inducingly awful, makes me almost want to scream with how abysmal it is, how ineligible, how vain. I want to break my keyboard and never write anything ever again. It is infuriating.

(I’ve always assumed that I was capable of writing. After all, I’m capable of everything else, or at least everything not involving unusual physical strength, or hand-eye co-ordination. So why can’t I write even passable fiction? No, ignore that – why can’t I write even passable prose? Though I suppose there’s no surprise. The resources I have – an ability to speak and write in English, some moderate experience of having read the prose of others – are shared with hundreds of millions of people, so if it were that easy everybody else would be doing it already.)

(Anyway, I recently looked again at the only story I’ve written that I’ve ever been happy with. And started tearing it to pieces like dross.)

The thing is, this isn’t a matter of mood-swings. It’s simply a matter of time. The former mode, the jubilant mode, occurs mostly while I am writing something, and for some little time afterward, and fades rapidly in most cases, and eventually in all. The latter mode is simply the evolution of the former, its natural end-point, in the way that it is no surprise when rivers, who rush and fall downward, find their endpoint in the sea, that rests quietly and never falls away.

No, what surprises me is how I am able to return from the latter mode to the former, again and again, as though I did not know I would fall from it again. Yesterday I wanted to set fire to everything I’ve ever written; today, I’m writing again and thinking wow, this is good, I like this. How? How am I able to delude myself like this, even when I’m aware of the delusion?


Unfortunately, being philosophically inclined, I can’t just leave things at a paradoxical question like that, I have to go and spoil everything by answering for myself. It’s because the pleasure is not at what I have written, but at the process of writing, and the memory of it, whereas the displeasure is at the words themselves. As though a man enjoyed skiing, but believed the tracks he left were not really great art, however artistic his movements may have seemed to him as he descended. There is no surprise here at all, that two things should be viewed differently when they are different, nor that a negative view of one thing should not prevent another altogether from being attempted.

Still, it was a nice little paradox while it lasted.


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