Is it the writing, or the having written?

Do you love the process..........or the finished product?

Some days it seems that everyone loves writing. Certainly a glance at the numbers for “Freshly Pressed” (The best of 337,656 bloggers, 327,229 new posts, 327,146 comments, & 79,537,749 words posted today on WordPress.com, as of this morning) suggest that there are a LOT of wordsmiths out there.
But what is it we love? Statistics will tell you that the number of writers out there who can point to their novel on the bookshelf is very small, and the number who can point to it on sale in the shops is even smaller. Does that mean that the bulk of writers do it for the love of the craft? Do we love the writing, the rush as the words drop into place on the page or screen, or is it the feeling of accomplishment, the sigh of satisfaction as we type “The End”? Is it the writing or the having written?

The beauty of the internet age, as Kristen Lamb will tell you, is that authors are now available to their readers in a way they never have been before. Ok, so you may not be able to drop JK Rowling an email to say how much you admire her work, but most savvy authors have a website, or a blog, or a Facebook page, or a Twitter account or all of the above. Because of this, when pondering the question above, it was possible to approach successful writers and put the question to them. They didn’t have to respond, of course, but here’s what the ones who did have to say:

Jane Espenson (Writer for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Torchwood and many others) : I love both. But I hate the starting-writing.

James Moran (Writer for Doctor Who, Torchwood, the feature films “Severance” and ‘Cockneys Vs Zombies” and many more projects) :Both. I love writing, sometimes it’s hard, but it’s great fun. And I like the sense of achievement when I finish something.

Jason Arnopp :Writer/exec of @Stormhouse_film, Doctor Who/Sarah Jane plays, Friday The 13th novel, TAPS film Ghost Writer.   Hi! I love those special times when the writing almost feels like it’s handling itself. Everything else feels hard work

For a wider cross section of writers, here are some of the responses to the question posted on Twitter:

@AKyleWilliamsAmanda Kyle Williams

The process is excruciating. Finishing a draft,revising-that’s when the magic happens 4 me – & getting an accepted manuscript.

@bjsmithB.J. Smith

I’d have to say both: the writing and the having written. Both have their own rewards

@JessicaThomasIN Jessica Thomas

I like having written better than the process of writing. Would rather be editing than writing.

@Tiffany_A_WhiteTiffany White

To me, there’s nothing greater than the feeling of accomplishment. It keeps me putting my fingers to the keyboard

@Claire_KintonClaire Kinton

think I love the editing best, great satisfaction getting the story out but polishing it up is best 4 me x

@PattiYagerPatricia Yager

Definitely the writing. Being in the zone is awesome.

@Julie_GloverJulie Glover

I love most the process of writing; everything outside the page disappears. It’s hard but engaging work.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that we all have different answers, or maybe we should be surprised how similar some answers are. The question seems to show that writing is more than the physical act of committing the words to the page or screen – it’s the evolution of drafts, the crafting of a final manuscript.

And we love it.

Feel free to pitch in with YOUR response to the question if you didn’t pick it up on Twitter. And which famous author, living or dead, would you love to trade Tweets with? The best answer gets a free copy of my e-book “Writing a play for  Community Theatre”.

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15 responses to “Is it the writing, or the having written?

  1. Richard James

    For me it’s the finishing. The worst part is the two-thirds-of-the-way-through bit, when I curse ever having started the damned thing. And Arthur Conan Doyle.

  2. Nice post, Damian! Looks like you got some great feedback! I love the look of published work, but it’s about the process, that’s the discovery and adventure part of writing!

    • See, one of the reasons I asked is that I love the writing when it’s going so well you don’t notice the time, the music or the fire engine sirens, but the rest of the time….I love it when I have the finished piece and I’m a WRITER because of this complete play right here. Funny how so many people are expressing love for the rewrite stage.

  3. Shellie Sakai

    Starting. Putting those first few words on the paper. And then making time to write. I need more discipline. And my author I would like to talk to? email with? David and Leigh Eddings. Love their books.

    • I tried reading “Pawn of Prophecy” to my Eldest weasel but she didn’t take to it. Mrs Dim and I were both disappointed, as we devoured all five books ourselves. I ploughed on with the second round “The Mallorean” but couldn’t get on with it. I did enjoy the two stand out books on Polgara and Belgarath though.

  4. Since you already have my two cents, and thanks for sharing and the shout-out BTW, I just wanted to add – great post!

  5. I think it’s both. When I started, I love the story but I can’t wait until I hit “the end.” It feels like I’ve accomplished something. Of course, I prefer it polished. 😉

  6. It’s the writing. It’s a powerful feeling to create characters and a whole world for them to play in.

  7. Thank you for this post! I’m not good with fiction; I’m more geared toward observational writing. (I’d love to be able to write fiction, but I just don’t have that skill yet.) But, I guess what I do is still “writing”. I’m definitely glad to see other people express their difficulties with writing. It is so helpful to understand that if I’m finding it difficult, that doesn’t mean I have no talent whatsoever and should simply give up. It just means that it’s sometimes difficult.

    To answer the question, which is what I’m supposed to be doing, I most enjoy the editing process. I use a digital recorder all the time, because I need to capture the idea or train of thought when it hits me, or else it will be gone! Sometimes when I sit at the keyboard it flows out nicely and sometimes it’s like the Sahara. It’s work. Nobody told me it was going to be work.

    Editing is when it starts to come alive for me. That’s when a tumble of words, thoughts, feelings and ideas become something coherent, something whole, something to sink your teeth into. Its part creativity, part puzzle solving, part architectural design. I have a some pieces that I really enjoy as a finished product – just a few that truly delight me. As for the rest, no matter how old they get, I’m still editing.

    • Good for you, Skippingstones! I’m envious of a happy editor. Sometimes I feel I can see the flaw in my writing but not how to fix it. I’m worried I’ll knock out a sentence and the whole thing will fall down.

  8. Haha – I used to be like that. There are so many things that you just love and you so desperately want to keep, but they just don’t fit. I had such a hard time with that for so long. I don’t know what happened, but that issue went away for me. It can be a fantastic, thought-provoking, insightful bit of writing, but if it doesn’t add to the piece and flow with what you’ve got going, then it detracts. I definitely save it for later, but I find it gets easier and easier to let go the more I force myself to do it.

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