An Ode To Tedium

I like reading the Feature Requests forum on this site, and have contributed frequently myself. I like the way we’re all trying to find ways to circumvent those tedious tasks that make writing such a chore. Keith, can we import this outline into Scrivener? Keith, is there a way for Scrivener to help me figure out where I am in my script at any given moment? Keith, can you incorporate a First Line Of Prose generator that can help us get started? (I made that last one up. But can you, Keith?)

I find myself in a constant search for that seamless, integrated methodology. The killer-app-cocktail that will take me from notecards to outline to draft to finished work to production to professional admiration to fly fishing in Wyoming, famous and content, with ample walking-around money. I admit, I want that. It’s what drew me to Scrivener in the first place.

Thing is, I’m starting to reconnect with tedium of late. Of handwriting on notecards, of generating long, color-coded outlines, of inputting those outlines into Scrivener by hand, one beat at a time. It’s boring. It’s time-consuming. It feels a lot like work. Last week, I got caught up in an outline and missed Weeds and had to watch it at three in the morning on TiVo, damn it.

I feel more connected to my stories, though. I feel like I’m living with them, wrestling with them, breathing their air. They’re annoying me, and they’re never, ever as good as they seemed in my head. But they’re better now, and I’m better for it, although I’m crankier.

I am not (NOT!) dismissing the desires of those who seek to harness the power of their Macs to make their lives more productive. I get that. But I have to say, there’s something rewarding in the tedious life of the solitary writer.

Am I right? Or am I masochistic? Or both?

I think you’re absolutely right - it’s one of the reasons I tell people to do all their plotting and “working out” on paper (and to use a note pad when needing to make a quick note of something that you can’t actually deal with right now).

Writing (as opposed to typing) something out makes it stick in the memory better, for one thing - and when you’re working on a narrative, you can never get too deeply into it. But pen and paper also has an innate flexibility (and isn’t that what we all love about Scriv?) that comes into its own at the outline stages.

One of my regular gigs is writing graphic novel adaptations of kid’s books. From time to time, as I flick another page over and resume copying dialogue from the novel to my script in Scriv for the hundredth time, I wish I had e-copies of the books so I could just copy and paste, to save me all this laborious typing. But then I get to the end and realise that, because I had to go through each page and each block of dialogue by hand, I now know the book inside out. And that makes actually working on the script, making decisions about what to cut or what to change, almost completely intuitive.

There’s something to be said for the “boring bits”.

What, exactly? I was about to ask, but antony seems to have answered. But what about you Sean? :slight_smile:
Take care

Isn’t this true of every medium? Take painting, or wood work, or even music. It can all be done electronically, but there is just something about the “old fashioned” methods that just seems … right.

So I’ll sit here exercising scales and arpeggios knowing that while I will probably never be a “great one”, I will at least be able to say I understand the work it takes to be great.

Or I head out with vic-k and get a drink.

I agree with much of what antony and sean have written.

Grappling with a narrative, wrestling with it, turning it inside out and putting it back together again, preferably in the first instance via the medium of a pencil (with eraser on the end :wink: ) is the only way to go. Only in that way can you understand what’s really going on.


Nice to hear other writers acknowledge their debt to writing the old-fashioned way. I have to begin each day – each working day – at a table with a cup of coffee, a notebook, and a pen.



At the risk of sounding more Zen that I ever want to be, the work is the reward. The end result – the final document, that elusive sheaf, the amphetamine rush of its heft – is a pleasure, yes, but a fleeting one. I’m in it for the job. Meeting six thuggish words in an alley behind a bar and beating the shit out of them until they give up a sentence. The note-taking, outlining, re-writing – the hard stuff, the boring bits – I’ve come to embrace them. They fill my days.

Which begs the question: Why not write everything longhand, Martyr Yoga Boy? My answer (and I’ve struggled with it) is that tools like Scrivener (and Omni Outliner) allow me to get my words on paper quickly, yes, but with a minimum of automation, without divorcing me from the actual work at hand. They are not a microwave, they are a hotter stove. They make my work simpler, not easier.

Does that make sense?


Ah, now there I couldn’t disagree more. I’m all about the finished product. But whatever I can (or must) do to make that finished product better is worth it.

“No writer enjoys writing; but every writer enjoys having written.”
– Attributed to various

Okay, yes, I did overstate my disdain for the finished product. “Real artists ship,” as Steve Jobs once said. I didn’t mean my Ode To Tedium to be a giant excuse for not finishing stuff. Was just relating the way I get there. But I do get there.

Much as I enjoyed reading about Grady Tripp, I have no desire to be him.

No, I don’t think you overstated it. If anything, I probably understated my response. I genuinely hate the actual process of writing.

“Preproduction”, i.e. plotting, world-building, research, all that; love it.
Typing “//ENDS”; love that, too.
Everything in between; hatehatehate.

Ah. I think I can understand both points of view, because I both hate the process of writing and love it - really hate it and really love it. The effort needed to penetrate to the heart of what is going on in a narrative I find very stressful, whilst simultaneously the pleasure to be gained from the process of pinning it successfully when I’m in the flow - that can be very pleasurable.

Tough, huh? :wink:

P.S. I like the Jobs quote, Sean.

Yes, it does.

Twenty five years ago, I came across this: “Its not the arriving, but the getting there, that counts.”, written on a print hanging on a wall of a house in Ireland. Over the intervening years, Ive seen it expressed many times as,” Its the journey thats Important not the arriving.”

I think the above, embodies, succinctly, the essence of the sentiments youve expressed. Ones that I embrace wholeheartedly 110%. The, ‘Getting there’ is the challenge, presented to us by the, ‘Creative Process’. The ‘Arrival’, is the challenge...met! Once there, were looking for new challenges. Are we not?

It`s the difference between taking a piece of seasoned, but twisted oak, for example, and simply pushing it through a ‘Planer/Thicknesser’, to give it near enough the requisite dimensions, as opposed to the intricate, but infinitely more satisfying and rewarding process, of planing it true and to size, using Jack plane and Smoothing plane, whilst repeatedly checking it for accuracy with try square and twist strips.

The momentary, fleeting buzz or rush you get, when all the constituent parts, produced with the same degree of care and attention to detail, come together to form a unique creation that is not only, by, but ‘of’, you, is just the cherry on the cake of vindication for all the effort you`ve put into the creative process.

In my case, the catalyst that starts my creative juices flowing, need be nothing more than coming across a piece of timber (oak; beech; mahogany; walnut etc. or even good old pine), with a lovely or unusual grain. Straight away I can see in my minds eye, the finished item, or at least a finished item. But! What I cant see, is just what the creative process has in store for me. That`s the challenge! The Getting There. The, ‘rush’ of arriving is the ego at work. The getting there is the, ‘Feeding of the Soul. :wink:
Take care