What Everybody Ought to Know About Writing

  • It’s hard.
  • It’s harder than you think.
  • It never gets easier (but it does get better).
  • It’s scarier than it should be (but not too bad once you start).
  • It’s the last thing you want to do when it’s the first thing you should do.
  • It’s usually pretty thankless (especially when you’re doing it right).
  • It’s easy to begin, hard to continue, and even harder to finish.
  • It’s never enough; you can always do more.
  • It can be painful.
  • It’s hard.

100 thoughts on “What Everybody Ought to Know About Writing

  1. Love this.

    I’d say the same is true for starting an online business, or doing anything that’s worthwhile.

    It’s harder than you think. It’ll take longer than you think. And you will be afraid, but in the end, it’s well worth it.

    At least that’s what I’ve found.

  2. I can identify with all your points here about writers and their writings—. Especially on the point that it is easy to begin, hard to continue and harder to finish. Why is it so hard to finish- to one’s utter satisfaction? I have started many excellent works that I’m still struggling to bring to  a perfect finish. Always thinking and feeling there is more to add and some more to prune away. I get so mad at myself atimes for I know Ihave more to give and  can do better than this. What am I not doing right? 

      1.  Oh yeah…I get all endorphin pumped with THE BEST ideas…THE GREATEST projects…and about 3 days in…forget about it.
        Although I am pleased with the ideas and projects I’ve actually disciplined myself to follow through.

  3. You stopped too soon, Jeff. Here’s a few more for the list…

    – It’s fun.
    – Hard and fun aren’t mutually exclusive.
    – The tougher the going, the more fun you have.
    – The only thing that limits you is yourself.
    – Once you know the rules you get to break them.
    – It’s one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.

    1. Dearest Jessica: please I´m learning and I agree with your post. If we are talking about writing, shouldn´t your post  had read “The only thing that limits your writing is you.”?

  4. Thanks, Jeff. This is so true. It is very painful, and it hurts too much sometimes. But it will get better soon. I love your writing, I can relate to this in my quilting.

  5. Hello Jeff thanks so much for pointing those keep points out, you nailed it right on the head. Sorry for the double posting

  6. I wholeheartedly agree that it is hard. Awful. Especially the threshold experience, perhaps a little bit like the horse feels before jumping…? But it is just to do it, to write something right on, even though I need to change it many times later…
    Great post, and perhaps your shortest, right :)? 

  7. I’ve been teaching writing at the college level for more than 10 years now.  While I agree that writing is often hard, what I want my students to know is that writing offers us a gateway to understanding, freedom, and greater love for the world.  I believe it’s vitally important to tell young writers (and struggling writers – and ourselves!) both sides of this truth.

  8. These are the truest facts about writing I have read in a long time.  I am having a difficult time keeping my eye on the prize and really just following through. Reading “Wrecked” is helping… a lot. Thanks and take care. 

  9. NOW you tell me! (grin)

    Trying to learn how to resonate with people so they will enjoy reading what i write and will join my tribe is frustrating, more difficult than I could have imagined and sometimes almost heartbreaking. Plus, it is just plain hard to do.

  10. My advice, unless you are the writing version of Mozart, is to major in a lucrative profession.   Make solid investments in assets like rare earth, Chinese utilities and hedge against debt.   Retire at 40 and live off of the interest.  That gives you at least 30 years to write your famous novel while enjoying the finest wines, meats and cheeses.


  11. Hey Jeff, Sort of a bummer seeing that list, no matter how true. I find that when it feels particularly thankless, that’s the time to switch to a passion project to make myself feel better. One hilarious journey is NanoWriMo where you spew out a novel in 30 days. It’s a ton of fun and the only way to ‘win’ is by ignoring that pesky inner voice that constantly edits us before words even hit the page.

    1. hmmm, Marnie. I look at this with the opposite perspective: it’s encouraging to me to hear that this isn’t supposed to be easy. gives me hope. most things that are hard are worth doing.

  12. Writing…

    * It’s fulfilling…
    * It’s a little frustrating to start with at first…
    * It’s a skill most people are reluctant enough nurture…
    * It’s something you don’t become good at overnight…
    * It can be a source of living IN THE LONG RUN. 

    And most of all, it’s one thing that can make a writer both crazy and sane. >.<

  13. It is hard. Then it’s rewarding and sometimes cathartic. It can also be emotionally draining depending on the subject… or maybe, it’s always emotionally draining if you are passionate about the subject matter. 

    P.S. I let my mentor read Wrecked and he loved it. 

  14. Maybe I’m not doing this writing thing “right,” cuz for me, writing is fun, easy, effortless, joyful, and my favorite thing to do. Yes, finishing can be a challenge, for sure, but writing is like breathing for me — like living, actually — and I always wonder, why all this focus on how hard it is? Seems really negative to me 🙂

    1. Sounds like you’ve got a good thing going, Sandra. William Zinsser talked about the difference between writing as a vocation versus avocation. I think that may be the difference. If writing is your job, it sometimes feels “hard” (as all jobs do). I think the trick is to realize that what makes it hard is also what makes it great. It’s hard like working out is hard or learning carpentry is hard. Not because it’s bad, but because it requires skill and effort. Thanks for the comment.

      1. I’ve been thinking about this and I think the difference is defined in one word: Struggle. It sounds like your definition of hard = challenging, exhausting, at times painful. To me hard implies struggle, suffering. Struggle comes when you’re going against the grain, doing something you have to FORCE yourself to do. Think of childbirth. It’s painful. Challenging. Overwhelming. Draining. Exhausting. But hard? No. It’s natural. 

  15. Yes, yes, and yes.  Funny. I’m sitting at the computer now, with the intent to write.  Both my girls are napping.  Total free time.  I should be writing, yet here I am.  Yes it’s hard, but man I do enjoy it. 

  16. LOL! This brought a chuckle because it’s so opposite of everything you read in sales letters. I love it.  Your statements reassure me that I’m not the only one. I find it’s especially hard to get started. That is my biggest challenge.

    Also, your statements are more true for me if I’m writing a book, writing a blog post or creating a product. When I write for self discovery or to process my feelings, then I feel good  afterwards and that in itself is rewarding. Writing for self therapy is different for me than a book, blog post, article etc.

    I’m in that “hard time finishing” place right now with my book. I can also resonate with your statement that writing is the last thing you want to do when you should especially when it comes to my book.

    As a side note, I have been learning about writing and writing strategies for over eighteen years. One thing that I have found recently is more joy in expressing what I want to say. For years, I was so uptight about doing it right. Now though I still make mistakes and have to rewrite more than I would like, I enjoy writing more because I know the craft better.

    Thanks for writing this and pointing out this side of writing. I know not everyone resonates with it but plenty do at least with parts of it. I don’t think it’s being negative, it’s being realistic. Maybe more people would persevere if they knew this can be part of the writing process.

  17. Jeff, i love what you write, but what you wrote here is not my experience. I love to write. There are few things I enjoy more. I love to wake up in the morning, drink some coffee and blast out 700 words. I find it life-giving. Here are a few things that help me:

    1. I am not a perfectionist. I don’t brood over every word, although it did just take me 10 minutes to choose ‘brood’ and I am still not sure if that is the right word :-). 
    2. Even though it is against the rules, I write as if I am talking to someone. 
    3. Not being trained as a writer helps me not worry about breaking rules in a culture that really doesn’t notice (if content is good.)
    4. Thanks to your challenge in YOU ARE A WRITER, I started writing everyday first thing.

    1. Thanks, Ron. Glad the challenge helped. One quick clarification: I love to write, too. But I still find that writing can be, at times, difficult. But the difficulty of something has never been a reason to not enjoy it. All the best to you!

  18. Jeff, you have inspired me.  I am launching my own blog.  Not exactly a trend-setter I know, but I believe I have a message to share.  Thank you for encouraging me (and a few others) to try.  Perfectionism is a beast that no longer has me trapped.
    CindyTunstall.com  Whoo hoo!

  19. Love this. Jeff, thanks for being honest about the writing journey. You help me remember that it’s not about perfection (which turns into an insurmountable wall every time) I have this pic hanging beside my desk as a reminder.

  20. Mannn, you spoke a Word!  I totally agree!  On this day we set aside for ‘rest’, I’m actually ‘Laboring’.  Writing, editing, tweeting!  Lol!  But I will enjoy every leg of the journey, even the most tedious of parts!   Can’t wait to hear more about Tribes too!  Signed, one of your ‘newer followers’,  A. D.

  21. It’s a high risk/high reward profession. It takes more work than you ever realized and rarely pays off like you want it to. You actually have to make yourself do it and, sooner or later, let others read it. You have to accept rejection and criticism without letting it destroy you. And sometimes you’re the only one who cares. But you have to care. And you have to love what you do. If you love writing for the sake of writing, the risk is absolutely worth it. 

  22. Wrecked or wracked off

    Writing helps you win from within
    Lights the embers of your heart, inspires your desire to express your inner voice

    Talking and/arguing with yourself, laughing at your own jokes are all positive signs that you’re truly engaged in doing what you love
    Don’t let anyone whisk you off to the asylum!

  23. Truth.  

    Especially “It’s the last thing you want to do when it’s the first thing you should do.”

    All these points really speak to perseverance.  Thanks Jeff.

  24. I completely relate to this post. Gloria Steinham once said, “I do not like to write; I like to have written.” The process of writing is so very often ugly and tortured but, in the end, if the struggle produces even just one nugget of truth that impacts even one human being in a positive way, it is worth it in the end. This is why we write.

  25. Hi Jeff. I really identify with “it’s the last thing you do, but the first thing you SHOULD do.” For me, I am most creative and fresh first thing in the morning. That’s when my butt really stays in the chair. If I get stuck I even take naps sometimes and wake up and do it all over again:) 

  26. I like this style.

    I think brian clark had used the same style for his top 10 writing tips. AMazing post jeff.

  27. Great little list! It’s hard, but it does get slightly more bearable over time. It’s all about getting into that right mindset. Yes, it’s a chore sometimes, but the rewards make it all worth it.


  28. It’s horribly frustrating.  Not so much the act of writing…but finding the time to write.

    I struggle with it.  And it is pulling me apart.  I just want/need to find some time to write.  It’s almost like being homesick.  I miss it that much.

    It amazes me how you and others can crank out elegant blog posts every day.  Yes — I am jealous.

    Somehow, I have to find the time and energy to be creative again.  I did it once.  I have to figure out how to get back in the routine.

    1. I feel the same way, Michael. Thanks for expressing my thoughts – and those of many frustrated-but-gotta-do-it writers!

  29. Art is a lot like exercising by yourself. It’s not much fun while you’re doing it, but the reward is tremendous.

  30. No, no, no… this is not so. Yes, sometimes it is hard. Sometimes, parts of the process feel hard. Sometimes certain projects come hard. But if writing is hard for you, you may want to change what you believe about writing… or the creative process in general. And do it differently.

    I agree it’s hard when you’re out of the flow, when you’re efforting instead of playing, or pushing instead of receiving. Then it’s a tangled mess. But when you let go and let the words loose, when you write for the sheer joy of it… that’s not hard. That’s a friggin’ blast. Then, getting to edit, embellish, revamp and change your mind a hundred times over… sometimes, that’s the best part.

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