Shut up and write

by david

Maybe my biggest mistake as a writer is to talk about work before it’s done.

I tell people I’m writing a novel, and we talk about the novel and I get great satisfaction from talking about it. I get more guaranteed satisfaction from talking about it than I get from the terror of staring at the next empty page. No big surprise that I’m more likely to talk about it than spend the necessary time to get the thing done. If I weren’t me, but I knew me, I’d wonder if this jackass was ever really going to finish the thing, if he ever actually worked on it.

It’s not ALL talk: the novel is real, and the ideas are good. I’m pleased with the writing, and confident in the direction it’s headed. But that me who isn’t me has a point: there’s no guarantee that the thing will get done. At my current rate, I’ll be finishing it in retirement.

With my shows, this is never a problem: I don’t always know what I’m writing until a second or third (or tenth) draft is done, but a first draft always gets done because I’m writing to a deadline that someone — my director — is aware of. Not delivering is simply not an option. I won’t take the embarrassment of asking for an extension. The shows get done because I have to get them done.

I don’t talk about the shows-in-progress the way I talk about the novel. Maybe it’s because when I’m working on a new show, I know it’s going to get seen and I don’t want to put out false ideas or expectations. With the novel, maybe some part of me knows it’ll never be seen, so it doesn’t matter what I say. Or maybe, even worse, in the absence of real progress, talking about the novel seems like progress. I got the satisfaction of thinking about, talking about, the creative project. It’s like being creative!

So the talking could be a symptom or it could be a cause. Either way, it’s not helping.

The only positive in this is that I know that satisfaction isn’t sufficient. It bugs the hell out of me that I’m not getting the work done. The satisfaction of talk intensifies the dissatisfaction of the work not done.

Time to shut up about it and write. Or don’t write. But talking isn’t writing.