“”I hate writing, I love having written.”
Thus spake Dorothy Parker.
Stephen Sondheim is quoted as saying, “My idea of heaven is not writing.”
This lady and this gentleman are so opposite me. I love the writing part. Even more so, I love getting the idea. The Eureka moment! There are few things in life more satisfying. Maybe just one.
I am struck by an idea that excites me, then I go and write it, go to sleep, and the next morning when the laughing gas has worn off, I reread it and hate every word. Usually I still like the idea, however, and that’s what drives me to go back and try again. It’s a form of masochism: someday I’ll get the flagellation just right, and there won’t be any tell-tale marks.
So I go back happily and naively writing again, and when I’m done…it’s a little better.
And then it’s back to the drawing board to make it better still. Or try. That’s why I’m on draft five.
Sometimes I wonder why. Most readers don’t notice the little finesses that make great writing. They just don’t. No sin there. I wouldn’t know a magnificently grown and pruned prize-winning rose from a generic FTD bud. I can’t tell a 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild from the wine I bought for $12 at BevMo. (Sometimes I think neither can they.)
But not so with words. Which is why reading back my own stuff can be painful. I don’t love having written. It’s like waking up after the alcohol of the act. I’m amazed someone like Dorothy didn’t feel the same way.
Claire Danes says she can’t bear to watch her own movies. Claudio Arrau, one of my favorite pianists, was once, in an interview, asked to listen to one of his own recordings and comment on it. After a few minutes, the mild-mannered, ultra-polite Chilean said, “Please take the recording off.”
I can sympathize.
Nothing is worse than lying in bed at 2am and thinking of something you wrote that night (I write a lot at night) and saying, “That was awful,” or “I should have mentioned this too,” and having to crawl out of bed to fix it because you know you won’t remember it in the morning and the piece won’t be any good without this correction.
I wonder if Dorothy ever did that.
I wish I could love having written. But maybe if I did, my satisfaction would cause me to stop. But at least I’d get more sleep. It’s tempting.