All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
Much to my wife’s regret, I am terrible at talking about the writing that I do day to day, the creation and revision of half-formed stuff, my ideas of what I’ve written so far and how I plan to finish it and make it better. I try to stammer out a summary for her from time to time, but I’m bad at it, and the unfortunate result is that a part of my day each day becomes a black hole and a mystery to her.
I was thinking about this after reading this Freakonomics post, in which they quote Derek Sivers at TED saying, “Any time you have a goal, there are some steps that need to be done, some work that needs to be done in order to achieve it. Ideally, you would not be satisfied until you had actually done the work, but when you tell someone your goal, and they acknowledge it, psychologists have found that it’s called a social reality. The mind is kind of tricked into feeling that it’s already done. And then, because you’ve felt that satisfaction, you’re less motivated to do the actual hard work necessary.”
Funny thing is, that’s actually the opposite of my own experience. Talking about what I’m working on offers no satisfaction. Instead, one of the big problems I have with trying to talk about what I’m working on is that what comes out of my mouth sounds so incredibly ridiculous, lame, or both, that that it seems impossible to believe that if the thing were finished anyone would ever want to read it. And it seems so much richer and full of potential magic when it remains snugly in my head.
I know I’m not the only one with this problem. I can remember one of my teachers, Frank Conroy, saying that you should never talk about what you’re working on. “If you do,” he would say, “it will just…disappear.” (I can also remember exactly the little, theatrical poof movement he’d make with his hands as he said this.)
But I also know one or two writers who love to talk about what they’re working on, who will describe it in detail and what they want to do with it and by the way what’s your opinion about this or that? It seems to be a part of their process.
Everyone has their own process, I suppose, and at some point you just have to do what works for you to get words on the page. But I’d be curious what kind of experience others have had with this issue. If, for example, there exists some methodology by which I might be able to trick myself into talking about what I’m working on without feeling like I’m really talking about it, I’d love to know about it.