How Do You Feel When You Write?

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
The process of writing a book involves many stages, from the inkling of an idea, to making plans and researching, before writing the story, followed by editing...before entering the maze of wondering how to sell it!

Of all of the stages, editing is my least favourite, and as for marketing my novels I'm as confused a dunce now as I was four years ago.

For me, the best part of the process is the actual writing: I come alive when I return to the keyboard. Steve McQueen encapsulated the excitement of doing something he loved—racing—and I feel the same way about writing.


I'm intrigued to see what happens next, for whatever plans I've made and however inventive I am, there's still an unknowable element that appears while I write.

I split into three parts: creator, critic and reader, watching the story coalesce. Not every author feels the same way:

'My greatest fear is of suddenly feeling that to devote so much of my life to writing is meaningless. It's a sensation that I've felt very often, and I'm afraid that I will again. I need a lot of determination, a stubborn, passionate adherence to the page, not to feel the urgency of other things to do, a more active way of spending my life. So yes, I'm fragile. It's all too easy for me to notice the other things and feel guilty. And so it's pride that I need, more than strength. While I'm writing, I have to believe that it's up to me to tell this or that story, and that it would be wrong to avoid it or not to complete it to the best of my abilities.'

Elena Ferrante, author of My Brilliant Friend and four other Neapolitan Novels

Other authors don't have any guilt about writing:

'Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.'

Gloria Steinem

'I never want to see anyone, and I never want to go anywhere or do anything. I just want to write.'

P. G. Wodehouse

We previously discussed 'How do your Stories make People Feel?', but how you feel when writing those stories?

Happy? :D

Neurotic? :oops:

Angry? :mad:

Wistful? :confused:

Confused? o_O

I feel like this lion:

joyHappy Lion.jpg
I feel like I have to quickly capture a vision or memory before it disappears forever. It sometimes feels like a race against time or like peering through a fog. At other times, it is like finding the perfect puzzle piece and putting it in place.

I like this description. I too find I have to quickly put it down. And I don't like not knowing what's going to happen which is why it takes me ages to start. But I've recently tried starting and finding that the knowing comes as I go along. So it's only until that moment I start to write that I know what the characters will do next. It's like being a method actor/writer. Have to be in the moment with the character to 'see' through the fog.

Coming round to trusting the process took a bit to adopt.
I feel inadequate while writing, and this is unpleasant. My reach clearly exceeds my grasp. That's why I waste days, sometimes, before putting down that first word, top left, on the first page. When I edit what I have written I am sometime pleasantly surprised at how well I think I have done. Bad writers may work from an inspiration no less pure than anyone else's. They just can't get the words right.
I bet even some of the most famous writers feel that way. Like trying to bottle a genie, and even if others think it's great, the best thing since whatever, it's fallen short of what they wanted it to be. Tantalus in Tartarus.
How do I feel when I'm writing? Powerful, like a god. I start with a simple 'What if?' and then a whole universe is mine to play with. Then I wake up, take a look around and realise that the washing up needs doing, the cat tray needs emptying and money needs to be earned.
I feel like tendrils of of colour flow from my pen...well, my computer keyboard, anyway.
My stories are always germinating in the darkness of my subconscious, but it's as if the action of putting words onto the page release them into the light.
On a good day.
Sometimes the colours don't flow and then it feels like work. I try to get a few lines written at the very least on those days.
As for the editing process, I find it highly satisfying. My stories have definitely benefitted from the various revisions they've been through and as someone who likes to be tidy, I enjoy the feeling that things have been put into order.
For once I have actually thought through a response to a question because despite it seeming a deceptively simple one, the reality for me has been that it sparked numerous thought processes and I had to kick it upstairs for Norman to come up with an answer.

And he did.


That is how I feel when I write. There are a myriad of other emotional responses as well but they are so varied, and can change from moment to moment, that I cannot specifically pin one down but when ever I sit down to put pen to paper, either in physical note making or the metaphorical keyboard to screen version, I feel engaged in a way that nothing else I do comes close to matching.

It as though part of my brain comes alive and whilst it does not happen every time, there are enough incidences of me almost fizzing by the time a session comes to an end, to accept that some chemical reaction is instigated when ever I can make fictional shit up.

I have bored you all rigid with how writing has no real great purpose in my life other than how I get my kicks and thanks to Paul, I can finally pin down the why.

The experience can be intensified by location and circumstance (for example in August I will be on my Dalmatian Island hide-away for over three weeks and literally so chuffed I could eat myself as I wade through whatever project I am working on at the time) but what matters is that I am engaged in the process.

Perhaps it is an addiction? With an actual physical element to it? I have often joked with friends of mine that they play golf, I write but I suspect that we all get a similar feeling from what must seem to outsiders as a complete waste of time.

Worse monkeys to have on your back I guess.
Yes. Very creepy.

Re your mother's book. Karne is a bit of a brat isn't he? Clever, wants power while not understanding what that means, but I guess he is going to learn a few things....
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