The Unglamorous Life of a Writer

Being a writer sounds fantastic. Writers are supposed to be so intelligent, educated, informed, and well-spoken. They have these deliberate opinions and they have the voice and skills to share them with the world. They get published in magazines or they get awards at the Oscars or they go on book tours where people line up by the thousands to tell them how great their work is. It sounds like a dream.

But the truth is that writing is probably one of the most unglamorous things you can do. Writing is just you and your thoughts, sitting in a room, trying to find a way to stop fighting each other and get on the same page. Literally.

Everyone, even people who so obviously have a lot to say, is terrified of the blank page. They don’t know where to start. None of us really do. Sure, we can outline. We can jot down notes. We can tell someone what we want to talk about. We can talk around themes and our grand thesis. But when it comes to the nitty gritty of choosing the exact words and how they look on the page — that’s the heavy lifting. And that shit is ugly. That’s moving a pile of bricks one by one only to realize, a lot of the time, that you need to move them all back. It can be exhausting at best and absolutely brutal at worst.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the dream of being a writer, though, instead of diving into the mud. It’s so easy to sit there and play with fonts and margins and toy with different titles and imagine what your life will be like once you sell that book/script/article. I get caught up in this stuff all the time. I love making slick title pages for things I haven’t written yet. I love imagining what I’ll say when I get interviewed on some podcast about my first film that I haven’t even finished the script for. I’d be a liar if I said I don’t think about what my Oscar acceptance speech will sound like or what I will say to hopeful aspiring writers when they start reaching out to me for guidance.

But I think that’s a part of the process. I don’t think you ever totally get over that fear of the blank page. I don’t know if you ever get so good that you don’t just want to skip the hard stuff and get to the parties and the critical acclaim and the money. Part of the daily grind is re-learning the lesson all over again: You can’t get any of that stuff if you never actually fucking sit down and write.

My advice to everyone, and most of all, my advice to myself — advice that I need to tell myself every day so I’ll get off of goddamn Facebook and stop thinking about what I want my headshot to look like if I ever write a book — is to just do it. Just start typing. The beauty of the computer is that you can always delete. You can always cut, copy, and paste. You can reorder things. You can decide it’s all crap and start over entirely. But if you don’t get your fingers moving, you’ll never be the writer you want to be.

This post was originally published on my blog.

Writer @ Upworthy. Keep up with my work:

Writer @ Upworthy. Keep up with my work: