Monday, October 6, 2008

Congratulations, Me, I Write On Trains!

I mentioned rediscovering my writing kink in Thursday's post, and I think now is a good time to go into a little more detail about what I mean by that.

So, first of all, I distinguish between a kink and a fetish. How so, you ask? A kink is something you like. A fetish is something you can't do without. Normally, these words apply to sex. I'm applying them to writing.

I'm lucky enough not to have a writing fetish, which would, in this case, be something I can't write without. You know how some people can't write unless they're in the park, or have downed a half a bottle of scotch, or are all alone in a cabin in the woods with no one to bug them.

I do have a writing kink. I have two, in fact:

  1. I can't write well on the computer. I can edit on the computer (though frankly, I probably do that better by hand, too), and I have to get used to transcribing my work into the computer. The juices, however, really only flow when I'm writing by hand, with a mechanical pencil, in a spiral bound notebook in my lap, or on a table, or attached to a clipboard.
  2. I do my best work when I'm away from home. So far, I've felt at my best when I'm on a train, writing in my lap. I don't know if this is because the computer - and it's wicked cousin, the internet - beckons me with its innumerable distractions when I'm at home, or if it's something more subtle, but there you have it.
Now, this revelation demands two questions.

Firstly, how did I get to be this way?

I really don't know for sure.

I think, in a lot of ways, I really came into my own as a writer in high school. Now, I'm a much better writer now than I was in high school, but that was when my stories first began to take off in terms of complexity, when my world-building began to be really compelling, and when my characters began to come alive. In high school, I had a computer, but laptops were still something for people with more money. So, when the need came upon me to write (which was often), I had to do so in my school notebooks. Then, after my homework was done, I would tear those pages out of my notebooks and transcribe them into my computer.

I also did a lot of my writing on the train, during my hour and a half commute to and from school, as I now do during my hour and a half commute to and from work.

Is that how writing kinks come to be? Inflicted upon us by our early experiences as writers? Well, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

The second question is, what can we do about it?

My sex guru Dan Savage says, of more conventional sex-type kinks, that you just have to get used to them, because they aren't going anywhere. The trick, he says, is to present them to your lover as an opportunity, not a burden; not "I'm sorry honey but I like to be spanked," but "guess what, sweetheart, you get to spank me!" I think the same thing applies to writing kinks. They aren't going anywhere, so we had better get used to them, grow to love them, and learn to use them.

Case in point, myself. For most of college, enamored of my fancy laptop, I suffered from a real creative slump. Now, three years after graduation, I've come to realize that while it sure is a neat toy, I do my best writing and my best game running without it. Now that I've come to embrace my graphite-smeared, lap-writing, hunch-backed self, my writing has improved. At least, it's going a lot faster and I'm having a lot more fun.

Of course, I should also admit to being totally perverse, in that my only finished novel thus far was written entirely on the computer. Go figure.

I'm sure writing fetishes are a lot more of a pain in the ass. As, I'm sure, are the more difficult writing kinks (like the aforementioned half-bottle of scotch). But you've got to do what you've got to do.

And if it turns out that I can only really write on trains, I'll let you know.

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