Shot Behind The Theatre

A whimsical and readable blog

A brief reflection on writing and habits

John Steinbeck said that habit is stronger than willpower or inspiration when it comes to writing. I can appreciate that. It’s more palatable than writers describing how they mined inspiration from their struggles with bi-polar disorder, or how the very act of writing is excruciating, akin to pulling their spine out of their mouths and listening to each vertebrae click against their front teeth. Those subjective experiences I can barely wrap my head around. Habit, I can. But habit is hard. For me, at least.

Satan called. He wants his beard back.

Satan called. He wants his beard back.

For me, writing is like acting. Having experienced both, I’m convinced you’re using the same creative faculties that just output through different forms. It’s little surprise to me that so many actors attempt playwriting. A big similarity, a pain-in-common for the writer and actor, is the naked exposure of putting your ideas, often emotional, sometimes inappropriate, and unspoken in everyday conversation, out to the public. Actors, unlike writers, get raw, instant feedback from an audience’s reaction, in an atmosphere that rarely lies to them. Writers are not so lucky. People take our stuff in silence, read in silence, reflect in silence and then often choose their words (hopefully) with care. It’s terrifying for its lack of certain honesty.

One of my greatest fears as a writer is showing my work before I think it’s ready. If I’ve learned anything from working in theatre, it’s that nothing is ever ready. In fact, too many rehearsals makes a show over-ready. Well-done steaks usually have the same taste and consistency as hockey pucks. So much of what I write never sees the light of day because I doubt (myself and) a work’s readiness. Unfortunately, short stories and novels don’t have opening nights if you’re just starting out on your career like me (I’m talking about non-dramatic writing here). No D-Day to scare you into being ready. Sure, you can make deadlines for yourself, but then enter stage-left that tricky wrestler named Willpower. Do as Steinbeck says and stick to habit, but keeping a habit demands a willpower on its own. A lack of habit makes Matthew the Writer a dull boy. I think many people go back to their childhood and blame a lack of something then for a lack of something now. I nearly did that right here.

A struggle with a quick solution doesn’t make a good journey.

In the interests of keeping this brief (an enabler of a writing habit), I want this little post to be a baby step in my own journey of building confidence in writing and taking the risks in putting stuff out there. A journey of starting a habit. So here’s something. By putting something, anything out there, it chips away at that self-made mental wall of tomorrow’s promises. Perfect product, or not, who honestly gives a fuck if it’s brilliant? Make a god damn mistake. Write something stupid, sing something selfish, make a bad joke, do a little artistic masturbation. Your shit will get better once you get the first layers of grime out. Just get the stuff out.

Maybe some of you will find this encouraging. Go make something. If you’re already making something, go work on it without any self-doubt or self-consciousness about what it is. Just go work and have fun with something. Especially if you’re currently illustrating a graphic novel that I’m writing the story for, page-by-page. Especially if that’s you.


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This entry was posted on March 10, 2015 by in Essays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .
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