The truth about the work of writing: it’s damn hard

You know how you’ve got seven shelves of books about writing that you look at every day — the shelves, not the individual books — and how you have 126 writing websites bookmarked and how you have an additional 200 writing blogs bookmarked in a folder called Writing Blogs, and how you have magazine articles in a folder called Writer Interviews and how you have notes from all your conversations with editors and how you have a hard copy folder and a virtual folder of your drafts of articles and final, published articles, and stories and then that super secret folder called Ideas. Taken together as a whole, all of this indicates that yes, you write, it’s what you do.

And yet each time a new assignment comes along, or you have an idea, or it’s time to write for one of the blogs you have, it feels as if you are starting all over again, that everything you knew just left for an extended vacation somewhere warm leaving you with no thoughts, no knowledge and back at that place of feeling like a beginning writer.

Except the feeling is rarely the reality, because you know your craft, you know your tools: it’s just sitting down and doing the work.

Okay, so maybe that’s not you at all. Maybe it’s all me, and if it is me, oh grrrrrr.

It’s sunny after 40 days and 40 nights of rain and one day soon it is going to be Spring and it is going to be warm, and when that day happens (next week, please?) I would much rather be out with the dogs down at the boardwalk on the shores of Lake Ontario contemplating what words describe the feeling of finding a heart-shaped stone, or how to describe what it’s like to watch a group of pudgy people with binoculars, wearing Tilley hats and vests with many pockets wandering around the marshy area, presumably looking for birds. That would be much more fun than what I said I’d write.

But so what? Who said writing is fun? Sometimes it is and sometimes and isn’t and there are times I find that as a deadline looms, the ‘isn’t fun’ outweighs the ‘is fun’. Notice how I am planning my escape not for today but possibly for next week, when the deadline is even closer.

I should be used to this: one of my early writing classes was to train the brain: take the facts and write a news story, not just any news story, but a factual, highly readable news story, with the only variable being the word count. It taught me well and today I can turn out a 250-500 word piece in under 45 minutes.

But that’s when I have all of the facts. Finding the angle, finding the hook, finding the human interest, finding the story and pulling it all together is a slightly different mental exercise. Writing takes time and it takes focus and it takes thought and it takes being able to be in three mental spaces at once and STILL be able to focus. It also takes a mix of needing to write and wanting to write and then actually doing it: writing and rewriting and after writing, editing until there is a finished product called story, article, book, poem, lyric, headline, title, blog post.

Writing is work. Contrary to all those people who say, “oh, I’m going to write when I retire” or “I’m going to write in my spare time,” as if writing is a sweet little thing to do to pass the time the truth, as Hawthorne said, is this: easy reading is damned hard writing.


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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