What Makes Writing Hard
It’s not the process or the writing — that part’s easy
Look, sometimes I don’t know how to write. I get all worked up over it because there are a million angles to come at something and sometimes I turn inwards on myself and I’m just like “whaddup, bud?”
Wat dat mind do?
Writing is easy for three big reasons:
- You can put any garbage down on paper and it’s technically writing. Bad first drafts are technically writing — and even a shit first draft is better than no writing at all, as the latter isn’t even qualified to compete. “fjadligu;arng” is technically writing. Technically. (And it’s really only an edit or two from there to some of the garbage that’s passing as “books” out there!) There are gatekeepers on publishing, sure (except for Medium), but there’s no gatekeeper on writing. If you want to write, you write.
- It’s free, guys. It’s fucking free. Name me something half as magical as writing that comes this cheaply. Even music and visual arts aren’t this cheap. Even mothafuckin graffiti ain’t this cheap (spray paint > pens.) As long as you can pick up a $2 notebook and steal a pen from Applebee’s, you can write. And since most of the western world has laptops, chances are you already have one of those, too.
- There’s no downside. Literally none. You can’t “lose” at writing. Because, see above, it’s fucking free. You’ll never get your ass handed to you like you can with a lot of other endeavors — unless you die of social stigma (unlikely.) There’s only upside or petering out.
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to know how, and it’s so deeply ingrained in what I do that it feels like an itchy sweater to even talk about it like a stand-alone thing. I see it like talking. And yeah, sure, there are classes and courses and clubs for talking more better, but for the most part, this shit is all communication and I just can’t with most people who want to talk about the words rather than the content or craft, like writing is music and you can appreciate it without hearing the lyrics.
Writing is NOT hard for the following reasons
I don’t know, man, a lot of people cite shit I can’t relate to.
Anybody who reads me knows I hate being asked about process. I seethe with blinding white hot rage any time someone wants to talk “process” with me. Because it’s so lame and not-the-point that they might as well be asking me which shoe I put on first to go running. Fuck off and stop.
The secret to running? Run. I wear size 8.5 Nikes and the secret to my process is run. I like to run 10-mile stretches of 2-min intervals. RUN.
And I know there are tons of people who recognize that there is a difference in shoes, time of day, diet, etc — but only if you’re already motherfucking running!
If you don’t even run daily, who the fuck are you kidding wanting to optimize? Seriously, are you also wandering into the backs of restaurants to ask the chef about his process, when you don’t even own measuring cups. The fuk.
Holy shit. Run. Or write. Or cook. Do your thing. The process is not the hard part. Doing the thing is not the hard part. Write. Every day. That’s 99% of the “process.” Personally I prefer to write towards the tail end of a beer, but right now I’m not drinking so I make do I guess. I still write.
That’s aggressive, I know. But like, damn.
2.) Similarly: writers block
The fuck are people even talking about. Four year old kids who eat dirt understand the solution to writers block, and they make better work of a box of Crayola crayons and some glitter glue than some “writers” do with their $1,000 laptop and Optimized Process. omg, write.
Writing IS hard because there are so many angles
But! It’s also what makes it FUCKING FUN.
Is there feeling involved or nah? How much? Is it only implied by word choice, or is it explicitly stated?
If feeling: HOW do I feel? (Dudes, sometimes this alone takes me a minute.) How do I WANT to feel? Is “rage face” an appropriate feeling? How much of that do I want to share? How do I want a reader to feel? Because sometimes I don’t care and I go on tirades like the above.
Here’s where you get journaling. And essays. (But who am I, even??)
Oh, oh !— I can write about repressing feelings! Which I’ve done. And then I can even take it all the way back to the beginning — my mom, because it’s always the mom — though I want to be careful I don’t get too whiny. But then here’s the kicker: along with my repressed feelings, I offloaded a lot of those memories, dropped them off at the curb somewhere along the way like an old rickety end table on moving day. So then what?
It’s not writer’s block, because I can always write. It’s more that I’m like “how do I write my emotions here when I ain’t got none? Can I just say that and be done with it? Is that enough?”
2.) Time / Tense and Details
I struggle with past-tense storytelling. Actually, lol, I freaking hate it. My natural inclination is to either a.) immediately bring it to the present tense, or b.) draw some higher-level conclusion from it and write about that instead. Ideally, I wanna do both.
Exhibit a.) “I wore these red boots as a child and I guess you could say that red was always going to mean something for me. It’s funny how color seeps into our souls like that, and 30 years later I still think about the…” Holy shit, bish. You were supposed to tell the story of the boots!
I get so bored by historics (“this happened, and then this, and then this”) and so tempted by the higher level shit and it’s a bad habit I’m trying to resolve. (Is there a patch for this?)
I’m thinking about just pulling these stories from the journals I had at the time, if I captured any play by plays (rather than high-level thoughts) and on more than one occasion in the last few weeks, I have seriously considered calling up my mother to have her read them to me. Which is adorable, because more than a few entries in there are about her.
Her: “Kris, it says here you took my good sweater and ruined it.”
Me: “wat! no, that was Buddy, remember??!!!! and besides that’s boring — skip to something interesting.”
Her: “yeah, I skipped ahead. The next entry is also about me… Not very nice, KG. Not very nice at all.”
And that’s even assuming I had detailed accounts in there, which I probably did not. See: problem currently being discussed.
I can’t even participate in user tests for software, because the whole point is that you only take what they say at face value and you never draw conclusions or make inferences. The first time I heard this I was like “holy shit how can you not?!” Like, is that part 2? Some senior level exercise? If not now, when!? I truly couldn’t believe you just captured shit, black and white, like little ants marching in a line, and then snapped your laptop shut and called it done.
My agent (hey, E) asked me to write more stories, and every time I sit down to write them, that’s what happens. I’m bored even as I begin, I don’t have any emotions or don’t want to wallow in the ones that are there, and I can’t tell you how hard it is to stay on the task at hand — “oh, let’s tell the story of my mom’s puppies!” — without bringing it to present tense and focusing on more pressing matters, like today mostly. And me. Lol.
Since I am trying with this, I took a storytelling workshop a few weeks ago. It was fine at first, but I became so bored by what everyone was clearly treating as a free therapy session with their lame-ass stories that I only went twice.
Because probably even more “my favorite” thing to do than the insight is write some idealistic, non-time-stamped shit about what we should or could do. Which is fine, but too much of that and you’re in “bullshit book” territory, I think. So. Here I am.
How do I write my mind when my mind doesn’t want to work like that?
Questions like THESE are infinitely more interesting than “process,” and even these aren’t about “the writing” so much as they are about the writer.
This post is largely to work through these feelings
Are they “feelings?” “Thoughts?” Don’t even know.
But maybe if I get it all out on paper I can move through it and get over myself and write about all the super fascinating things that happened to me when I was five that I barely remember.
I’m overthinking it. I know this. Churn enough out and you’ll find your feet.
But even as I write this, it’s important to note that I keep writing. None of this is an excuse not to write. It’s never an excuse not to write. You just end up writing everything except the thing you’re supposed to be writing and hope that people sigh patiently waiting for you to do the thing.
Maybe I should take more notes throughout the day; maybe I should “user test observe” my own life. I’m only 1% joking.
I’ll let you know how it goes.