There are two things in life I really enjoy. And no, being grumpy isn’t one of them (though I do enjoy that as well). I’m talking about two of my particular pleasures – travelling and writing.
I think there are a lot of similarities between the two. Both involve going on journeys. Both involve visiting places you’ve never been to before – or maybe returning to places and seeing them with different eyes. The main difference is that travelling involves going to places in the real world while writing involves going to places in your imagination.
When it comes to going on journeys, whether real or imaginary, there is one cliché that seems to trump them all – getting there is half the fun. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that.
What I love most about travelling is being there and doing things. I’m not sure I’m so keen on getting there. I find driving a car to be more than a bit of a chore, and flying scares the heebee-jeebees out of me. And don’t get me started on the pain of sitting for hours on a bus. The only option I can think of as halfway tolerable is a train, and these days I reckon I’ve spent too much time on crowded commuter trains for that option to still hold a lot of appeal.
With my writing, it’s kind of a similar thing. When I plan a story, it tends to revolve around a number of big scenes or set pieces. Often, given my background in comedy writing, these tend to be almost like comedy sketches. I usually get them well fleshed out quite early on.
Which means that a lot of the writing challenges end up being how to connect those scenes. How do I get from one to the other in an interesting and unforced way, that makes it feel like a proper story, rather than just a set of vaguely connected vignettes? It’s kind of like the writing equivalent of the car drive or the plane flight.
I agonise over these sections. I can spend hours trying to get a couple of paragraphs right. It’s always the most painful part of the writing experience. I can’t tell you the relief I feel when I finally manage to get there, and I can start working on the big set piece I’ve been planning for ages in my mind. It’s like that moment when the drive or the flight is over, and you’ve reached that longed for destination.
So in response to that cliché. Getting there may be half the fun. But I can tell you it’s most of the work.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as