Is writing hard? This is what we really want to know.
I want to be a writer, but is it difficult to actually write? Will I have to do any real work? Will it be easy? Are there any shortcuts?
Let’s ask Mark Twain:
Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.
Seems to about sum it up. Writing is easy, so long as we put the time in. So what do we make of this? How do we apply it? We start by telling the truth.
How to get a book published
I just read this excerpt from Jon Acuff’s Quitter the other day and loved it. I think it addresses this question quite well:
When people ask me, “How do you get a book published?” which is just a specific way to ask, “How do you make your dream happen?” they want the same answer I used to want.
“It’s actually pretty easy. You just write a draft of the book, usually over a long weekend, in a cabin somewhere with a vista. Gotta have a vista.
“Then after you write it you give it to a publisher. They fall in love usually faster than it took you to write it.
“Then you go on a book tour that is highly attended and not at all just you sitting by an empty table watching people pick up your life’s work, flip through it, shrug in disappointment, and walk away.
“You then collect royalties, debate whether to let Guy Ritchie turn it into a movie, and pick out where you want to live now.
“That’s probably the hardest part of the whole book-writing experience, deciding what to do with your money. Are you a beachfront cottage or a mountain chalet person?
“That’s the real dilemma of book writing. Picking your second home. Huge hassle.”
Of course writing is hard. It’s gruelingly difficult. And then again, it’s not. I mean, how hard is it to sit down and start typing? Not very.
So why do we writers struggle so much with this act that, in some ways, defines who we are and what we do? I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not the writing that’s the problem. It’s the writer.
Why writing ain’t easy
Writing is hard because we’re human. We’re scared, fragile beings who think of every single excuse to procrastinate that which we ought to be doing.
When was the last time you woke up and the first thing you thought of was washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and mowing the lawn… and then you actually did those things? If it was yesterday, then you’re not a writer.
So what do we do? What we can. We begin. We don’t promise to write a book overnight. We start small.
A sentence. Then, a paragraph. Then 500 words. And that’s good enough for today. Tomorrow, we may even shoot for 1000. And little by little, the battle is won.
Every day is a new chance to experience a small victory or defeat. If you win, great, but it was only a small victory. If you lose, that’s okay, because it was only a small defeat.
But you must get up and do it again tomorrow.
The real hard part
This is what is hard about writing: It never ends. You can put your “game face” on for 24 hours or a week and succeed. But that’s not what makes a writer. That’s why we call it “the writing life” — it consumes who you are and what you do.
The difficulty of writing has nothing to do with pen and paper, monitor and keyboard. It has to do with heart and soul and the mind behind the words.
That’s the real hard part of writing, the part that will experience all kinds of internal resistance: convincing yourself that no excuse is good enough to not write.
So now that you know the hard part, the rest is easy. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll be any good. But at least you know why you must start — and that you can.
By the way, if you want to get better at starting, you should read The War of Art.
What do you think? Is writing hard? Share in the comments.
*Photo credit: Bing Ramos (Creative Commons)
Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links.