I can snark a lot about 50 Shades of Grey as much as anyone, and I continue to be kind of oddly convinced that it says something about America that a book and its resulting movie about a fetish that involves pain and torture and bondage and the like is a runaway hit and that very fetish is socially acceptable while people who dress up as fuzzy animals are somehow giant weirdos, but that’s not what I’m thinking about tonight. I read this article about EL James’s writing process as she was writing 50 Shades, and I have to say, I admire her on this basis.
Lots of people view writing as some sort of quasi-mystic activity when you go into some sort of creativity-trance and receive the wisdom of The Muses that you might channel it into words on the page, and that ideas for stories come from some sort of magic realm beyond our universe, and that writing is basically an impenetrable thing that can only be understood by poets and word-shamans. Then there are others — and it is mainly to this camp that I belong — that view writing as a job, that it’s something you just do, much as you would paint a fence or sand the floor or wax the cars. Now, to be fair, sometimes it does feel to me like the former, but usually when it comes down to getting the damn words on paper, it’s the latter attitude that gets me through.
That’s why I find it wonderfully refreshing to learn that EL James did a lot of her work on her morning commute, and she did it on a Blackberry. The only time she could find when she could really write was a time just loaded with distractions and stress, and the only tool she had to do it with was really a woefully inadequate tool for writing a novel. But she played it as it laid. She showed up and got the job done, in the crappy time she was able to find for herself, on a crappy tool. She did the work, and I salute that.