Writing Fiction: Enjoyment?

There was a discussion on Facebook recently, about the importance of anxiety to creativity. The key quote is from Kierkegaard:

Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process) — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever. Now creating, actualizing one’s possibilities, always involves negative as well as positive aspects. It always involves destroying the status quo, destroying old patterns within oneself, progressively destroying what one has clung to from childhood on, and creating new and original forms and ways of living.

It conjures up a picture of Franz Kafka huddled over his desk, scratching away with his pen. Except that Kafka regarded his novels as comedies, which suggests he was having more fun than you might think.

And seriously, if there were no joy in writing, who’d bother?

I went to the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition with a friend. There is film of him cutting shapes with a really massive pair of scissors; or sitting back while his assistant pins up another cut out on the large board. Beyond the pleasure of sending a young attractive assistant up a ladder, there is something about the whole exhibition which is about the joy of simple creation. He said: ‘When creating these coloured paper cut-outs, it seems to me that I anticipate with happiness what is about to take shape. I do not believe I have ever had such balance as when I was creating these paper cut-outs.’

How many writers actually enjoy the process? I don’t mean the after-the-event, my-god-you-don’t-know-how-hard-that-was pleasure of a job well done; I mean the PG Wodehouse, sitting at a typewriter with a pipe in the mouth, feeling pleased with what is occurring.

So, what are the pleasures of writing?

• The moment when you sit down to write and there’s a settling in the stomach like the moment you realise the lights are going down in the cinema.
• Something you didn’t think was going to happen, happens. Convinced that nothing productive will come out of today’s session, instead there’s a new character, or a chippy bit of dialogue or a nice description. Bearing in mind Jane Austen’s warning about ‘charm of recent composition,’ and the fact that it may not look as good tomorrow, there is pleasure in the moment.
• Building towards a final picture.
• The satisfaction of a learnt skill. The ability to manipulate words in a way that, a few years earlier, was not possible.

In truth, I’ve experienced both anxiety and joy when writing, and a multi-coloured emotions in-between.


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