Uggghhhhhh writing is so haaaaaaaarrrrrrd.
Why? Shouldn’t it be easy, so long as you learned how to type in high school? Just put your fingers on the keys, and, “beep beep boop!” Transfer your thoughts to the electronic equivalent of paper.
Right? I mean, come on, fingers. You haven’t posted in a month and a half. Do your thing.
My friend Esta recently read two books about writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King.
“I love On Writing!” I told her, sipping tea in her living room while her toddler napped, a fan whirring to muffle our voices. “I started Bird by Bird and didn’t finish it.”
“See, you’re like Justin,” she said referencing her husband. “He also liked On Writing but not Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott is always second-guessing herself, and writing is so difficult and painful for her, and Justin just had a really hard time getting through it. But I told him he has to read it to understand how I think as a writer.”
I was actually really surprised to hear that writing was so hard for her. Listening to her talk about the painful dramatic tug-of-war in her head made me think, “wow, writing comes easy for me.”
But it doesn’t. I mean, it does when I write in my diary, it does when I’m inspired and feel like writing, but the easy writing is never enough to turn me into the type of writer I want to be.
I read On Writing in a Journalism class, and loved the humor and practicality, even though Stephen King is not an author I would normally read. I think this is because I have a very practical approach to writing, one that is more stereotypically male than female. So when it comes to things like “writer’s block,” I always think there must be a practical solution.
Like, “Outline more.”
Or, “Make yourself write for an hour each day.”
Or, “trick yourself into doing it.” That was the solution I came up with today, powering off my iphone and telling myself that it’s staying off until I post a post.
But that doesn’t change the fact that writing is just hard.
The other day I inexplicably found myself alone in the house. In the morning, no less. Mom rushed out the door and left a steaming pot of tea behind, and I sat at the table and gazed across the brilliantly green fields and felt like writing.
So I got out a story that I should have finished months ago, but for some ridiculous reason I’ve been putting off for FOREVER. I opened the notebook, set my pretty tea cup on top of it, and snapped a picture for Instagram.
Yeah…so much for diving into the writing.
I realized, after I posted it, that this is more of a universal struggle than I thought it was.
I asked Mom, “why is writing so hard?”
“Because,” she said, “your thoughts are a jumbled mass of emotion, visual, impressions, whatever. They’re not in orderly words and sentences in your head. So they have to be squeeeeeeezed through this cake-decorator tube that shapes them into words and sentences.”
The fact that she can articulate it that well shows that she has mastered the craft, in my opinion. But writing, for her, is still so, so difficult.
This is one of those posts where I want to hear your thoughts. Writing is hard. But why? What do you think?
For what it’s worth, I love reading both your Mom’s writings, which I’ve been reading for awhile now, and yours, to which I’m new. This post hits a familiar chord, because I LOVE to write, but still find it difficult. I am not the writer I want to be. But I also get in a quandary because I want my writing to have a purpose. Not be just aimless. Because I am afraid aimless will not be interesting. And vain person that I am, I want to be interesting!
I totally get that! I think that’s what makes blogging harder now than it was in 2005 when I started–back then everyone wrote aimless stuff so I didn’t care if my writing was aimless or not. Now I care.
Writing is hard because:
Should I keep this under 5,000 words?? It’s difficult because
-of insecurity. Wondering what people might think of us, after reading our thoughts/opinions, etc.
-KIDS. You know that moment when everything in the house is too noisy for you to think clearly? Yeah well that’s parenthood. Except that feeling for me, won’t shut off, regardless of how quiet it ever is, until all my kids are gone, or sleeping. Not a moment before.
-laziness. It is easier to browse Instagram. Or Facebook. Or anything.
-it’s vulnerable. People think you owe them something, just by you having the audacity to wrote about your thoughts.
-peak hours. Writing is only profitable for me at certain times of the day. And once I blow past those windows, it’s over.
-anything else, ANYTHING, gets priority. The world will never make room for your writing the way it makes room for other things. You have to steal that time.
-judgement from others
-lack of inspiration
-things you can’t (or shouldn’t) wrote about but you really, really want to, which in return block your ability to write about anything else.
-accessibility. You can look at a phone anywhere. Standing in line, sitting on the toilet, in bed in the dark…writing takes more effort and preparation.
I could go on and on. Honestly, I could. But I’m typing this on my phone and so it’s difficult 😝😂
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I find it hard sometimes to tiptoe around what might be offensive to my readers. In other words, I can’t say it as I think it. I have to “nice-i-fy” it first. I have to say it somehow though if it feels important to me, and getting from honest and raw to nice takes work. Actually, I do it for myself too, because I don’t want to be nasty. I write narrative and commentary–not fiction, and am OK with some really banal blog posts. I just tell myself that it’s MY blog (actually your mom told me that when I started), and I’m making a record for me. Anyone else can avoid clicking on it or click right past it at any time without hurting my feelings.
For me (and I have a thousand stories in my head–well maybe a hundred) it’s because in my head it’s interesting, and on paper, not so much. When I get it down it feels dry and humorless.
AND I think there is a discipline to it. Like, when I started my blog, I longed for inspiration and it wasn’t always there and then I had to go find it–or let the days be post-less.
Sometimes I lack inspiration becasuse I’m too introverted. I spent a lot of long boring hours at a robotics tournament in Hillsoboro yesterday–long because we had to leave JC at 5 a.m. and the kids were busy wtih their stuff getting judged and doing interviews with the judges, and the competition on the ground didn’t start until noon, and when it did start, it was in an auditorium witht he robots on stage and I could not find a distance or angle where I could see what what going on, and the narration was very spotty. Plus our team didn’t do well, and it’s always more fun to watch when your team is doing great….And then we had to wade through several tie-breakers and overtimes in the end and then the endless awards ceremony…So I had a lot of down time sitting in the cafeteria with the coach’s 12-year old daughter who was writing in her notebook much of the time. It reminded me of when I was 12–I wrote about everyything and was soooo pitifully early teen rambling and soooo introverted and self-centered, that I finally threw it out and was just thankful that I moved on–but maybe I haevn’t moved on enough.
Maybe I’m not watching enough and listening to life enough. Maybe I’m not reading enough and challenging my intellect enough. Maybe all those stories in my head can’t be conformed into one theme Maybe they have to be told separately. Perhaps in the end, they will form a hedge of sorts, or maybe they will just be a string of endless rocks you see on the beach, some rounder than others, some with interesting colors, some agates even, but in the end, just rocks….
….when I want it to be interesting to people, to be something they can relate to or learn from, or laugh at..I want it to mean something…but perhaps every story doesn’t have to be an agate or a diamond or even jasper–perhaps basalt that is broken and rounded by being beaten and pounded by the relentless ocean of my life is good enough.
After all, have you ever gone to the beach at the bottom of the lighthouse in Newport and listened to the ocean beating against the pile of rounded basalt rocks that make up the “beach”? it is a deep, booming, hollow sound, that could only be made by the sound of the water beating and echoing up through all those rocks. Perhaps the stories of our lives–the hundreds and thousands of them that make up each life, are really uninteresting round, gray rocks, that only really make a magnificent sound when they God’s voice is listened to through them?
You’ve gotten a lot of good ideas already, not sure that I can add anything more. I find that my writing is affected greatly by how I am feeling about life otherwise. When God feels especially near, inspirational posts and life lessons come flowing more easily. When I am depressed and aimless, my words seem to freeze inside of me and the more I try to find them, the more they won’t come.
The other biggest obstacle for me is my audience. And the longer I blog, the more I become aware of the audience…
For me, writing is hard because there is about ten other things I would rather be doing because I am lazy. At the end of the day, all I want to do is zone out and enjoy some downtime. Writing is work. I already worked today. That is my struggle.
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I am, quite frankly, too lazy. I love writing whenever i get around to it! But I never do. Also my brain works too fast for my pen…or something like that…maybe my brain actually IS as stupid as my proverbial pen makes it sound….not sure.
I now am certain it is the latter due to my strange use of the word “proverbial” in that paragraph. What I meant is that sometimes it is not a pen, but a computer or pencil or some such writing instrument. Tada! My writing skills in a nutshell!
I’m like Esta, because Bird by Bird filled me with endless joy and happiness. She allowed me to feel the freedom of writing a mess, battling through until it finally forms itself into something beautiful. Writing has actually been less difficult for me in the past months, because I’m feeling freedom to create absolutely messy first drafts. I used to have such a need for it to be perfect when I left the table, and now it’s just straight up messy. But I know I can come back and fix it.
It’s still hard though, it’s just ALWAYS hard.
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What if I dig down deep inside myself and produce the very best that’s in me – and it’s boring?
What if I dig down deep inside myself and produce the very best that’s in me – and nobody cares?
What if I dig deep down inside myself and produce the very best that’s in me – and nobody likes it?
What if I can’t?
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My goodness! Yes. Writing is not as simple as moving your fingers across the keys, or even just typing out what you’re “thinking.” Sometimes, I get a fantastic writing idea, sit down with my laptop, fingers poised to strike, and suddenly all words flee the cavity where my brain’s supposed to be 🙂 I guess the condition is called “writer’s block,” but those two little words don’t seem to do the ailment justice.
I agree with your mom. Our thoughts are more than just ordinary words. I don’t even know if they’re English! Maybe that’s the problem…our thoughts get lost in translation.
Thanks for another entertaining article!
I used to really enjoy blogging, and it came easily to me. Then I posted a character sketch for school. A few years later, the person sketched found it, and called me on it. I’m often discomfited, and sometimes embarrassed, but I’ve never been so mortified as I was at that moment. They weren’t even upset, but I haven’t blogged the same since. Now that I *know* people read my blog, it’s so much harder to post anything meaningful.
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Because writing is a fine art, an attempt at conveying the rhythms of life, the emotions, smells, sounds, ideas and sights with words and spaces and punctuation. It’s to create, in a tangible form, something the mind’s eye sees. It takes practice and discipline and a dose of joy in the doing–which seems to have been passed down, through your mother’s ropy fiber, to you. Try an inspiring short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Artist of the Beautiful.”