Writing is hard. Even the best writers think so.
Hemingway once said “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Anything that requires bloodshed is not easy — trust me, I’ve had children!
I’m the type of writer who agonizes over word choice. I read and reread my writing until the words lose meaning. I edit pieces a dozen times before I’m ready to publish.
My husband, who is also a writer, can craft a thoughtful piece in about 30 minutes. He may make a few errors, but he doesn’t sweat them.
My writing process is a teeth-gnashing-and-wailing situation while his is a Sunday drive.
It makes me wonder — why is writing so much harder for some of us?
Here are the three main reasons why writing is more difficult for some writers.
1. Crippling perfectionism
Try telling a perfectionist “done is better than perfect.”
They’ll say nothing’s better than perfect, that’s why it’s perfect!
The problem is, it’s nearly impossible to produce anything perfectly. Trying to do so will usually result in one perfect sentence in a piece no one will ever read.
Perfectionism is exhausting. Even when you try to make things perfect, they don’t end up that way. You just wind up annoyed and overwhelmed by the process. Sometimes you can be too burnt out to even start because you know that it will end in tears. That’s the worst thing about perfectionism — it can stop artists from creating anything at all.
There is no cure for perfectionism that I’ve found. The only way to get through is to slowly desensitize yourself. Allow your work to see the light of day regardless of whether it’s perfect or not. Show it to a trusted friend who you know will be supportive before releasing it to the masses. Put a limit on your edits or a timer on your revisions and make yourself stop once time’s up. Get comfortable being uncomfortable with your finished work.
One piece of advice that helps me is to tell myself I can always release a second version and there are no completely finished works. Keeping this in mind allows me to publish things while calming my inner panicked perfectionist.
2. Inconsistent writing schedule and being out of practice
Those of us who wait for our muse often get stood up.
Muses are notoriously fickle, flaky, and uninterested in inspiring us mortals to finish our projects. Waiting on the perfect time, the right mood, or the retrograde to end may lead to not writing as much as we’d like. Or at all.
We end up thinking about writing, wanting to be writing, dreaming about writing, but not actually putting pen to paper or hands to keyboard very often. Days, or even weeks, may pass between writing sessions.
Being out of practice or inconsistent with your writing schedule is a big reason for writing feeling difficult. When I wrote for 30 minutes each day, one of the biggest benefits I found was that writing got a lot easier. During the first week or two, thirty minutes would result in a few paragraphs. Near the end of the 30 day experiment, I was writing almost 1000 words during my half hour sessions.
Think about this: When you were a kid regularly playing on the playground, you could fly across the monkey bars with ease. Go to playground and try the monkey bars now as an adult. It’s insanely difficult! Your grown up body isn’t used to moving that way so it takes time for your muscles to remember what to do. You may not have the strength to make it past a few bars.
The same goes for writing. If you don’t use it, you lose it. The only way to keep your writing muscle strong is by actually exercising it. Doing so makes the whole process feel easier.
Set a goal of writing each day, for any amount of time, and see how much progress you can make.
3. Lack of confidence and fear of failure
It can be hard to stand behind your work.
What if people don’t like it? What if they call you the two most dreaded words a scribe can hear — a bad writer?
You’ll get over it, I promise. The thing about opinions is that everyone has one and they aren’t always true or helpful.
Some of the world’s most beloved writers were considered bad because they didn’t follow traditional grammar rules or couldn’t spell like Faulkner and Fitzgerald. Some of today’s most popular writers have been roasted by critics for “bad writing” like Stephanie Meyer. Even if you write something terrific like JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, you still can’t please everyone. Her work was rejected at least 12 times!
Did it hurt these writers feelings that others didn’t like their work? Sure, I imagine it did. But they didn’t let criticisms or lack of confidence stop them from creating.
Good writing matters, but not as much as you might think. If you can make people feel things with your writing, it doesn’t matter if it’s technically perfect.
People are imperfect judges of everything. One person’s masterpiece is another person’s meh-sterpiece. Don’t let potential haters get you down. If you write for yourself first, you’ll always have at least one fan.
One of my writing mottos is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” I’m always scared to share my work, but no matter the reaction I’m always glad I did. And, as a bonus, every time I put myself out there, it gets easier to do it again.
You’re not alone
Writing is not for the faint of heart. Creating anything takes courage and optimism. If writing is hard for you, remember it’s hard for a lot of us. The important thing is to show up, sit down, and try.
You don’t have to reach any milestones to become a writer — as soon as you start writing, you are one.