It Ain’t Pretty
About a year ago I wrote a series of posts titled “Report From the Trenches.” They were about a particularly ugly run of months when I was struggling to make a book-in-progress work.
The good news is that in the end (I think) the process succeeded.
The bad news is I’m back in that same place on the next book.
I never learn.
I forget each time how back-breaking it was the time before.
One of my favorite movies of the past few years is Margin Call, written and directed by J.C. Chandor. It’s roughly about the market crash of 2008, as seen from the inside—from the point of view of the execs at a giant Wall Street firm who make the decision to tank the U.S. economy to save their own company’s ass.
One of the pivotal characters is played by Paul Bettany, another fave of mine. At one point in the dark hours of the story, a junior exec (played by Zachary Quinto, who was also one of the producers on the film) asks Bettany what top management intends to do.
“It ain’t gonna be pretty,” says Paul Bettany.
The creative action in writing (or any art) is like giving birth.
It’s not pretty.
Weird-looking tools and implements are involved.
People who love each other dearly are cursing each other’s guts.
By the time the baby has safely made his or her entry into the world, the floor of the room is littered with bloody gauze compresses, sodden towels, sanitary wrappers, not to mention bodily fluids that not even the delivery nurses can identify.
It ain’t pretty.
My days of writing right now start with me plunging into scenes in which I have no idea what is going to happen (beyond an outline that I’m now cursing furiously because it isn’t helping me at all) and end, a few hours later, with me clicking the SHUT DOWN panel and staggering out to the pantry for a stiff drink.
This, I’m afraid, is the way it works.
Universes come into being amid collapsing stars and exploding supernovas.
Nations are born in brutal revolutions and counter-revolutions.
Even the cutest litter of kittens spills forth to daylight in a slippery, sanguineous pile of slop.
We need to remember this, you and I, when working events take a turn for the misshapen and the unlovely.
It ain’t pretty.
The Warrior Archetype
A New Video Series from Steven Pressfield
Subscribe here for the full series.