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Why Is Writing So Darn Hard?

Writing shouldn't be hard. It should be easy. Have a thought; jot it down. Where lies the complexity? But it is hard. It's so hard that it makes me want to weep into my handkerchief daily.

typewriter. cup of cofee. steam. Wh is writing so hard. blue. illustration drawing by Katherine M Kennedy-2


Imagination Starts In The Middle And Doesn't Bother To Fill In The Detail

Every good idea I have suffers from not having that great first line. I murder the story in my imagination, thinking about it till I'm too bored of it to write it, then when I try, the first line alludes me. The great difficulty with writing is the same as many other things in life. The good bits are few and far between, while all the boring bits, the intros, the build-up, and the editing never seem to end. Life and stories live in the mundane, and the mundane is just so damn boring to write. I'm a pantser; I don't plot my books except in my head. But I know there are many writers out there who love plotting. Plotting is their happy place, and they never want to leave. Writing is like any other job. You can't just do the fun bits. Instead, we all have to find a way to get through the parts we don't like so we can savor the parts that we do.

Nothing Makes You Feel As Stupid As Immortalizing Thoughts On Paper

"Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonising, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation." Writing quote by Ray Bradbury. Illustration drawing by Katherine M Kennedy

It's advice that's been handed out the world over. Professional emails and irate text messages alike. Write it down, re-read it in the morning, and see if you feel the same way. I've done exactly that, written vengeful diatribes against the word, words that lament the situation, the people, and the round earth that made it all possible. The next morning always brought a fresh perspective and a raised eyebrow at my nonsense words.

Nothing makes you feel as stupid as a record of your dumbassery. We can lie to ourselves about conversations. Spoken out loud and lost, we can rearrange history, so we didn't sound stupid but rather wise and poignant, but we can't lie about words written in black and white, stark and staring at us from the stupid page. I worry about it daily. It's why I avoid social media. There is a fear of future humiliation that I'll fall on the wrong side of history and be made forever stupid by dumb words well meant. Writing and then trying to publish that writing is like holding up your diary for the world to scoff at. A tree falling alone in a forest doesn't feel the same sting of embarrassment as when someone is there to witness it.

Then there's the grammar and spelling of it all. A slip of the key and ill thought comma and suddenly, you are fit for nothing but the trash pile. Insecurity made real and tangible in a single moment.

Writer's Aesthetic

Writer's aesthetic, and no, I don't mean the style and tone of your writing. I mean the tumbler kind of aesthetic. Pinterest aesthetic. The Instagram aesthetic.

There's a two-way writer's conceit, the Instagram image of a writer. Either we must weep as we creatively drown in our own words. Swimming in whisky while we mutter about 'the muse,' depressed geniuses who die young. Or there's the Instagram, laughing, carefree writer, the one who shoots out a chapter or two next to their ever-green plant, sipping on tea and beaming down at the page. At some point, I'm going to start paying attention to Instagram, but I feel like I need to buy a typewriter first—the surefire sign of a creative genius. How else will I die young and unappreciated? I don't have a cabin, and I've only seen snow once in my life, so what choice do I have?

Writer's aesthetic is terrifying. It's one of the scariest things that follows me around the internet. The writer's look. The way writers are portrayed in media bums me out. It demoralizes me. The way it's made to look so easy. It screams at me, "Why is it so hard for you?" And it's not just the Pinterest images. It's on tv, in movies, in books, and in blogs. The screaming inadequacy that bellows, "this isn't you, and that means you aren't good enough!"

I don't get drunk and weep over my writing (okay, maybe once, but the resulting writing wasn't good, how could it be when I couldn't see the screen through my blurry tears of despondency?) I type at a consistent rate. My hands never fly over the keyboards with perfectly constructed sentences that just WORK (frankly, my mac's keyboard sticks like mad, so the best I can lay claim to is intentional stabbing at the keyboard, slow but heavy-handed, how every writer wants to be described.

The Beautiful Fiction of A writer

Sometimes it feels overwhelming, the endless, intangible battle against reality and the beautiful fiction surrounding the idea of being a writer.

The clickety-clack of the typewriter's key, a hot cup of coffee steaming away against the snowy backdrop in your personal cabin (read small palace made of wood) tucked away among the trees. Or maybe you're a chaotic kind of writer. Stacks of paper, spilled ink, and a $1000 fountain pen. Piles of books surround you as you seep in the wisdom of the authors who came before you. Maybe a bottle of whiskey winks at you out of the corner of the picture-perfect photo that is your writing space.

There's a lot of jumping around the page when I write, a lot of copying this and deleting that, reversing the sentence order, and trying to make sentences make sense (and not just because of my faulty MacBook). I do pause occasionally and stare out the window. Does that make me a writer? Cos, it's the easy part, the staring. Stopping staring is the hard part. Typing is the hard part. Deleting paragraphs that I put effort into but just don't work—that's hard. If I had to think of a single symbol to encompass writers, it would be the delete key, not a snowy window and an oversized jersey. Not a quill or a typewriter. Who wants to type on a typewriter! It doesn't have the internet, so there is no research going on, and there is no damn delete key! You have to use whiteout, which is just… tragic.

Drowning In Good Intentions

There feels like there is the big bad collective Kabul out there doing its darndest to depress new writers. The sage wisdom from successful authors sounds more like the maudlin drum of a death march. I should be carrying around a notebook to jot down ideas—you never know when inspiration will strike! I should write at night, the moonlight streaming through my window so I can block all and every distraction. Scratch that. Wake up with the sun. Writing is a job, 9 to 5, or you don't mean it. No, I need to monitor people, use that notebook, and write down what is see, how I feel about what I see, and what the people around me might see or feel about what they say. Note how they walk and talk. Do they sound sad? Why? Figure it out!

Better yet, forget all that, and write only what you know; it's wrong and gross to write others' stories. How dare you? And write in the morning, 4 am, that's when the brain is at its juiciest. Stop working on your first book, you fool! Would an artist try and sell his or her first painting? No, of course not. You will fail until at least book four if you are lucky. But edit, never stop editing; editing is crucial, and if you aren't editing, you might as well give up now.

The Voice In Our Ear

Why are there so many lists of all the things that new writers are doing wrong? (For the record, I'm definitely going to write a list like that one day, but do as I say, not as I do.) Why are there no lists pointing out all the things that new writers do right? Why is the old guard holding fort through criticism, don't do this, do that, be like this, don't be like that. New writers are bringing a lot to the table. And here, I don't mean me. I mean the writers who are diversifying the bookshelves offerings, the newbies on the block who are going out of their way to write books that don't write about toxic relationships repackaged as romance, the ones with strong female characters who are also fun and flawed. Actually, stuff that, I do mean me. Hey, I might not have succeeded, but I certainly tried.

Stories that aren't about a white dude and a white lady falling in love under questionable circumstances. These are good things. What would have happened to those new stories if their authors had listened to all the voices in their ears, be it from publishing houses or from other authors who are wise to the way the book world works? Is there a reason why so many books follow similar story structures, with carbon copy characters and plot beats? Maybe it's because we are all listening to the same advice, and that advice stinks.

Top Five Things New Writers Do Right (off the top of my head)

Okay, this will not apply to every new writer, but it's true of many of them.

  1. New writers bring new energy to a field that can often be repetitive

  2. They are doing a top job of avoiding tropes, stereotypes, and cliches that have plagued the writing industry

  3. They Question Everything—Tell writing rules where to shove it

  4. New writers are always looking to improve and be better at writing

  5. Thanks largely to the internet, the new generation of writers has more access to information and research to enhance their stories

Don't Let 'em Get You Down! More Books, More For Me To Read

Shoved into boxes and told to be the same but better than the person in the box next to us. Maybe writing is hard because we're all just Dorothy, stuck on the yellow brick road, struggling to figure out that the wizard is just a man hiding behind a curtain. I offer writing advice on this website because I truly believe it's best to know the rules so you know how best to break them.

That's all.

Best of luck.

I believe in you.

Write me a book, so I have more to read.


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