Thursday, June 26, 2008

Why I Write: To recover

For periods between 2001 and 2004, I was working at home full-time as a writer. Projects included an unfinished and as yet untitled Katherine Mansfield biopic (various title suggestions include the completely unsuitable Katherine Mansfield and the Spiders from Mars) and a similarly unfinished fictional future documentary called Only Human.

Writing full-time was my dream and aspiration as a career. But I found this to be one of the hardest times of my life to date.

Writing was bringing out very dark feelings in me. Expectation of failure, tension, a lack of self-belief bordering on depression. Writing put me into a bad mood. Half an hour was enough for me to feel tense and want to lash out.

At the same time I really wanted to do it. I was drawn to writing, but the actual process of writing was really hard.

The immediate source for these negative feelings about writing was the damaging experiences I'd had while writing for the television series I co-created, Love Bites.

First, and most of all, I'd had a very hard time writing (or not succeeding in writing) parts of that show. The first episode, which I was in charge of, was rewritten too many times to remember. A few things fed into that experience in hindsight - uncertainty about my abilities and how to channel them in high pressure situations, a lack of clarity around what I wanted to produce, tight deadlines and the pressure of a production riding on my output, and sheer overwork.

Second, the show didn't make much of an impression in the cultural consciousness, so the sacrifices didn't seem to pay off into the finished product. The show came in for some criticism as well as some praise. My ego took a battering and that's something I've had to recover from as well.

The thing is, once the series had finished, I was eager to put into practice some of the lessons I'd learnt from writing on the show. And to improve on what I'd done. But now the actual process of writing had become incredibly difficult for me.

How did I get out of that? Persistence - I pushed through it by continuing to write. Awareness - knowing the writing process was hard for me, so not being so surprised when I felt bad while writing. Listening - hearing the negative voices inside of me, letting them have their say, and become part of me. Balance - I had come to place such pressure on writing that success or failure was too important to me. My life is now more balanced and I'm happier.

Writing still puts me in a bad mood. The less familiar I am with a particular part of the writing process (e.g. developing the idea, writing the first draft, editing), the more likely it is to bring out difficult feelings in me and more quickly. So the healing is ongoing. It's made me nervous of combining pressure situations and writing, which is something I still want to get over.

The process of writing Love Bites wasn't the only thing that caused me to feel the way I did then. The show came along at a particular time when I had a lot to learn, and I learned a lot from it. So I don't regret the show or blame the show - actually I thank it now and appreciate it.

Writing was hard before the show, and I think it'll always be hard. But it doesn't need to be as hard as that time of my life. I'm feeling the pleasures more now than the hurts, and that's something to celebrate.

1 comment:

HB said...

Hey Sean - really great blog of yours. At the mo I'm writing to piss off my nosey aunties. My letter is 80% iron fist and 20% iron glove and although I LOVE IT! I'm taking a break to gain perspective.

Perhaps I have been too influenced by last nights movie on the telly 'Possessed'(no that can't be it).

Well I guess I write to make a point, be provocative, have a laugh, impress, inspire and be inspired, to broaden my mind, to use great language, appear more intelligent than my aunties (he heh), to kick ass,broaden my profile and to create thought, feeling and discussion.