In honour of the extraordinary and rare moon we are having in the last few nights here in Australia, I’ve been thinking about rare things that can happen in a writer’s lifetime. It’s not all beer and skittles, or a bed of roses or fun in the sun. Life as a writer is never going to be easy, but once in a Super (rare) moon, odd things happen…
You get it right first draft.
Harold Pinter was one of those stupidly talented writers who apparently only ever wrote first drafts. That’s the meme anyway, and I do not vouch for the validity. Can you imagine just bashing out this amazing story, word perfect first time? If you believe it’s possible, good luck to you. I cannot claim this has happened to me. “Writer” as a profession should be more aptly named “Re-Writer” because most of us spend a ton-load more time just cleaning up our ‘word pies’ to make the stories work properly. I can say, however, that once in a blue moon whole sections of my work will come out “word perfect”. In other words, I will find that I’ve written a story that in part doesn’t need the dreaded re-write. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when somehow you chance upon getting it right. Sometimes you won’t even really consciously remember writing it, like the hand of God got involved or something. Spooky.
You write a family-based story and your family don’t get upset about it.
Seriously, writing a family-based story—be it a comedy or tragedy—is a risky move. Your family will almost always want to interpret it as autobiographical and, of course, it’s not a great look when the story contains some form of public airing of family laundry. I’ve seen it happen over and over to other writers. There will be so much controversy no matter what you write, and you can assume at least one relative will take exception, if not a whole angry bunch of them. An acquaintance of mine who happened to write a seminal Australian play about family had his family upset with him for decades until finally, given the massive popularity of the work, they all came around to claiming a certain proud ownership to it—as contentious as this play was, it was “their” play. The takeaway here: if you’re going to make a family-based story of some sort, make it an enduring classic so you family cannot very well complain.
You will be happy with the finished story.
It’s not just me, I know this. So many writers are never 100% down and satisfied with the work they put out. There’s always one little bit here they were unhappy with, or some nagging hole there they couldn’t fill up. Even when I see my work performed, I’m always thinking “Ouch, I could’ve done that bit better…” Even when the dashed thing is published, I’m still thinking of improvements. A writer’s work is never done.
You run out of things to say.
There’s writer’s block where you cannot find a way to move a story forward then there’s writer’s stump. Writer’s stump is when you look around and just cannot find a single thing worth writing about. This is rare, I know, for us writers because our head is like a sea of stories most of our lives. But it does happen and I’ve noticed it happens most when you come out of writing a big story, one that’s been difficult or time-consuming or just a plain long work-in-progress. I’m here to say it’s ok if it happens. Writer’s stump is a hard one, and as much as it is distressing (you’ll feel like a washed-up no-fricking-hoper when it does), it will vanish sooner or later. That old Harold Pinter was famous for saying that he merely imagined a stage and stared at it until the characters walked on and started telling him what to write.
There are some more rare things, but the moon is out and I want to go fill a wine glass and stare at it before it disappears for the next 30 years…..