What is the hardest thing about writing?
Besides all of it?
No, in my experience the actual the act of writing — at least writing a shitty first draft — is really easy. I mean, it’s just wiggling your fingers around, really. Getting words out is no big.
The hard parts about writing are starting and finishing. The in between part is cake (comparatively at least).
Aidan has a wonderful post about getting writing advice directly from Anna Quindlen. “Butt in chair,” she said. Butt. In. Chair.
Well, I can get my butt in my chair pretty easily. Still doesn’t mean I can start writing like nothing. There’s always another email to read, another new Twitter follower to check out, another blog post, another Buzzfeed list, another quiz, another stupid video to watch. It is truly amazing how many things need my attention when I sit down to write. My brain is like a toddler with ADD who’s seriously attracted to shiny objects.
Then there’s the things I need to get up for — another cup of tea, watering the plants, playing with the dog, laundry, another snack, more water (of course, the tea, snack, and water trips to the kitchen all happen separately). Then I need to check when my library book is due and make (another) mental note to call the vet (I don’t actually make the call, though, because if there’s one thing I hate more than starting to write or work, it’s making phone calls). Then I need to figure out what’s for dinner this week and find that recipe on Pinterest. Then I get frustrated because my desk is a disaster and oh, I have that pile of papers to be shredded, and Onyx wants to play again. And THEN I remember I wanted to check something someone shared with me or I liked or commented on or something on Facebook, and once I open up that tab, I check my notifications and respond to a comment and check a link someone else shared and by that time, I’ve forgotten why I opened Facebook in the first place.
But okay! Now I’m ready to write…about…hmmm, what again? Oh, shit, I need to pay bills too. And figure out a Mother’s Day gift! And what time is the game on tonight? Should I try a new yoga class this week? Or do a studio class? I really should do some core work…then I remember what I wanted to check on Facebook and go back and do that.
Finally, somehow, with the help of several small miracles, I open up the Word doc or whatever and start writing. And more often than not, I quickly fall into a groove and just get words out.
Great! Now I have a finished draft. It’s crap, but whatever, that’s what editing is for!
But oh, honey, if you thought I was good at procrastinating on the starting part, editing is even worse.
Actually, it depends what I’ve written. I can review client work and most non-fiction (blog posts) pretty quickly and easily. Fiction? Hoo boy.
I have dozens of “finished” drafts sitting on my hard drive that haven’t been opened in years. I have others that I started to edit and gave up on. I also have half-finished drafts that have been chilling since I got “stuck” on the plot and didn’t know what to do with the story so I just shelved it. Because I’m not writing it *for* anyone and I don’t *have* to finish it, so…I probably won’t.
Because the thing that’s the actual hardest about writing isn’t really starting, or editing, or even finishing. The actual hardest part about writing is writing something real. Something that’s me. Something that makes me feel vulnerable and squirm uncomfortably when someone reads it.
It’s easy to just write anything. It’s a lot harder to write something that makes readers feel something. Because the only way to do that is to write something that makes me feel something. And the truth is, I’ve conditioned myself to avoid feeling “bad” things. Like sadness, despair, shame, vulnerable, confused, lost, lonely. (I think maybe most of us have?) I think of things that have happened to me and I know I could write about them in a way that’s powerful and impactful. But I don’t because doing so would reveal stuff I’d rather not share with anyone.
And unfortunately, writing something good requires doing that. It requires opening myself up and going to places that I don’t want to go — which is hard enough without bringing people with me.
photo from death to the stock photo