Write What You Hate

Jan
23
2015

In the land of Kali-fie, Jack Birds claw at the sky.

This is the first line of a fable I wrote many years ago. It sprung into my head, in its entirety, while I was in en route, in heavy L.A. traffic, to Cathy Colman's writing workshop. That was way back near the end of the 20th Century. It’s one of the few things I’ve ever written that I loved from the beginning and never changed.

Cathy’s classes changed me as a writer. My previous writing had been in film school. I love screenwriting. I’m working on a new script right now. But, in school, the emphasis was on getting it right. It was about writing something that would get me a good grade, be a writing sample I could show around, and start my career. It had to be writing people loved.

When I started writing I was told to write what I love. That way, my work would be loved by others. What few people told me was how much writing I’d do that I hate.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that I write about subjects that I hate (though writing characters who love things that you hate can be eye-opening). What I’m getting at is that everyone writes stuff that sucks. I’ve written copy that was just plain bad. I’ve written things that I hate.

Often, my first draft of a story or website piece is mechanical, factual and bereft of style. I’m just getting stuff down on the page. I know that most of it will change. Much of it will be cut. A ton it will need editing for style, tone, and flavor. I know that if I were to read it as final text, I’d hate it.

Cathy’s classes provided me with a safe place to write things that I hated. She gave me challenging exercises, many of which I still use today. She should write a book of writing exercises. Sometimes these produced results that I hated. It was OK. I was writing with a freedom that I had never been allowed. I loved that I could write things that I hated and it was all right.

Today, writing what I hate keeps me from getting stuck. I know that I’ll be going back and improving it. I realize that one of the most difficult elements of writing is getting something on the page that I can edit, trim, shape, and refine. Maybe it’s something I’ll transform into work I love. But, I don’t have to get held up by trying to make it perfect on the first ‘go’.

I never changed the first line of that fable. I did add to it. After many drafts of the story, I found a way to make it better. I love it even more.

In the land of Kali-fie, Jack Birds claw at the sky, as if to pluck the eyes out of some unseen creature lurking there.

The Great Rabbit Mark

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