Writing is soooo hard; the lie that won’t go away

A World War II gunsmith working hard. (source: public domain photo via WikiCommons)

A World War II gunsmith working hard. (source: public domain photo via WikiCommons)

Since we’re now a few days into November and NaNoWriMo is underway for those who chose to partake, I thought I’d write a post that’s been itching to get out for a while.

It involves my flare up of hostility every time I see someone who bemoans how hard it is to write. (I saw such a post last week; a post in excess of a 1,000 words on the subject.) Why the hostility? Because to me, it sounds, at best, like whining, and at worst, like someone who is spoiled, entitled and clueless.

Here’s the deal. Anything that is going to be done well requires practice, time devoted to its pursuit, mistakes being made, learning from those mistakes and efforts to improve. That’s an across-the-board thing no matter what field you endeavor to do well in.

So, given that, compared to other fields out there, I’ve got to say that writing is not particularly hard or arduous. There are so many jobs out there that really are hard work–hard on your body and hard on your mind, that it irks me when writers bemoan how hard their job is. I’ve rarely seen it said because someone is simply having difficulty with one particular thing. It’s usually said as if the person is in a one upsmanship contest to see who has it harder, or they’re in a woe-is-me mood.  Neither is attractive.

Here’s the other deal: It’s OK to be glad your job isn’t grueling and arduous in the way of a construction worker or a waitress who spends hours on her feet taking orders, busing tables and plastering a smile on her face. It’s OK to be glad your job isn’t arduous in the way a bridge engineer’s is (one wrong calculation and people die when your bridge collapses).

Complaining that writing is hard is akin to when Gwynneth Paltrow said she had it harder than 9 to 5 mothers being a working Hollywood actress mom. Sorry, Gwyn, we all know that’s not true. All of us but you. Acting, like writing, requires professionalism and dedication to craft, and even some long hours. But, there are so many perks that folks working regular jobs (the kind that require them to punch a clock or report to a nasty boss) don’t get, that any hardship you have is really not worth whining about. Gwynn jetting to extravagant locations and getting paid to do so is like me complaining about sitting at my desk writing. It’s what many people consider a dream job, in fact. If you’re a writer, enjoy the fact that that is your job.  You can do it in your pajamas and no one will care.  Sure there’s frustration some days. Sure there’s fatigue some days. Show me a job where there’s not.  I’m not saying that it’s all sunshine and light all the time. Nor am I saying that people can’t express when they’re having difficulty with something. But essays of several hundred or several thousand words on the subject of how difficult writing is — um, no. Sorry,  that’s just bitching and complaining, as far as I’m concerned.

I thought I’d write about this now because NaNoWriMo is well underway. One of the wonderful things NaNoWriMo is, is an opportunity to debunk the notion that writing is  arduous or impossible. If you sit down with a goal and stick to it, you can get it accomplished. Now, NaNo books are generally not going to be masterpieces but they do show that dedication and consistency are key to success (while NaNo is about writing, I would contend this principal holds true for most endeavors).

Now, for those who still feel that writing is such arduous work, go outside when it’s 90 degrees (F) and dig a forty feet long, three feet deep, one foot wide trench (don’t hit buried lines).  If you’d like to do it sooner, dig the trench a month from now, in Illinois or Wisconsin (when it’s about 10 degree F). When you finish, imagine a man offers you $10,000 a day to write a book or dig trenches 8 hours a day for a period of 100 days. Which of those jobs are you going to pick? I’m guessing the easy one.

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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2 Responses to Writing is soooo hard; the lie that won’t go away

  1. Perhaps you’re “gifted,” RJ, but I am not. For me, writing gets tougher, not easier. The more I learn, the more demanding I become of myself. By the time I finish a book, I feel as if I’ve run a mental marathon. I don’t complain about it–but sometimes I question why I do it! And then I remember that I love to write, no matter how challenging the endeavor might be.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      Well, that’s definitely the spirit. I think the key with anything is loving it. To put in the work you need to be good, you truly have to love it, or else you won’t be willing to commit the time. Michael Jordan played so well, because he put in so many hours and he put in so many hours because he loved the game. I don’t think I’m gifted. There are very few people out there who are truly gifted (check out David Shenk’s book, the Genius in All of Us). People get good at things with focused, thoughtful practice and dedication and that’s about it. He’d even argue Mozart wasn’t really gifted. That he was just fortunate to have a music instructor for a father and all the tools necessary to practice over and over and over to the point where he gained expertise and eventually became an innovator. I certainly work hard at my craft, cut I don’t believe it to be an inherently difficult craft (whereas I view brain surgery and bridge building as inherently difficult).

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