Comedy or tragedy? Writing is as you like it

I had a lot of fun last week watching the Shakespeare rom-com “As You Like It” as performed by the Southern Maine Association of Shakespearean Homeschoolers. No, I am not making that up.

I love Shakespeare. “As You Like It” is one of my favorites — funny, dirty, whimsical, insightful and with some great quotes. I was pleasantly surprised that the performance was really good.

At intermission I overheard a woman say to her kid, “Are you getting any of this? Really? ‘Cause I’m not.”
I felt bad for her. She was missing a hell of a show.

Going to a Shakespeare play isn’t like renting a DVD of “Hangover II.” I’m not trying to sound like a snob,  but even though I’ve seen “As You Like It” many times before, I boned up before I went. A little homework goes a long way. A whole beautiful world opens up when you can follow what’s going on in a Shakespeare play. I feel bad for anyone who feels they have to endure one, rather than enjoy it.

So what’s this got to do with mystery writing?

I talked to a writer recently who didn’t seem to enjoy writing all that much. He quoted that old saw, “I enjoy having written, not writing.” He was a cool guy, and a successful, published writer, so this may sound weird, but I felt bad for him.

Writing, like Shakespeare, is not something to be endured. It’s something to immerse yourself in. Another cool guy and successful writer I talked to recently, Gerry Boyle, captured it well. He told an audience at Augusta, Maine’s Lithgow Library that he doesn’t feel right when he’s not writing. I know what he means. I often tell people it’s like a drug.

I’m not sure if the cure for enduring writing is as easy as it is for enduring Shakespeare. With the bard, a little homework and some actors who can sell it make all the difference in the world. Loving writing, I think, is more visceral. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’m glad I have it.

I felt sorry for the woman who wasn’t enjoying “As You Like It.” I was glad I wasn’t her. Not only glad, but relieved.

I’m “yet to be published,” but it doesn’t make me resent my writer acquaintance who doesn’t like to write. I’m relieved I’m on the other side. He’s missing a hell of a show.


About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Notes from a Cranky Editor all by herself, as well Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
This entry was posted in Craft, Maureen Milliken, Of Interest, Opinion, Writers, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Comedy or tragedy? Writing is as you like it

  1. Nancy Gardner says:

    Thoughtful analogy, Maureen. No doubt about it. Writing, like immersing yourself in Shakespeare, is not for the faint of heart. But it sure doesn’t get boring!

  2. I’m not a writer, I’m a visual artist.But I agree, any artist of any type doesn’t feel right when not creating something. A true artist doesn’t just enjoy doing it, she has a need to always be doing it.

  3. marymtf says:

    Shakespeare expresses ideas and emotions this woman you’re telling us about could have related to if only she’d have prepared for the experience beforehand. I’m sure she went away thinking that Shakespeare is best left to academics. What a shame.
    I can sort of understand why established writers were telling you they don’t like the writing part of writing. That’s not to say that they are yearning to do something else. I’m sure they couldn’t imagine anything more satisfying. It’s just that if you’re serious about writing it’s a hard gig that you have to take, err, seriously; it only looks easy once it’s in print.

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