Further words of wisdom from the depths of Neil Gaiman’s blog. Especially during the Penman Shipwreck, these bits catch my eye, and so I offer them up for whomever wants them.
I find myself in a quandary of sorts and wonder if you have any advice or insights you may be able to offer a young-ish, aspiring writer of fiction for the screen. For at least two years now, my working practice has proceeded more or less as follows:
1. Get an idea.
2. Scrutinise the idea with unhealthy intensity for any traces of plagiarism, clich�, deus ex machina, etc.
3. Sit down to write the first draft
4. Write less than a page, delete the whole thing, convince myself the idea is worthless, and abandon it altogether.
Something about seeing the ideas in my head committed to paper makes me balk, no matter how I try to force myself to just finish something – anything. Does this sound familiar to you at all, perhaps from your earliest days as an artist? I wonder if it all boils down to something as obvious as the fear of being misunderstood. If so, what can I do to enable myself to Just Get On With It?
Thanks for anything you might be able to throw my way.
Well, you have a couple of options. One of which — the easiest — is simply not to worry about writing and use the time to do something else instead: golf, for example, or macrame, or the breeding of prize gerbils. The other option is to write. What you’re doing currently is Not Writing. If you do want to write, then what you have to do is Not Do That Stuff You’re Talking About in 1-5 above, and write instead.
You might want to try handwriting, or even, if you can find a typewriter anywhere, typing. It’s harder to delete stuff if you’re making marks on paper as you go. And make a rule that you can’t go back and change things or fix things until you’ve finished whatever you’re on. You could try giving yourself a wordcount, too — a thousand or so words a day is probably good to start off with. Finish it, even if it’s crap (especially if it’s crap). Then go onto the next.
Ted Hughes once said words to the effect that the progress of any writer is marked by those moments when he manages to outwit his own inner police system. Bear that in mind. And good luck.