Writers Journey: Writing is Hard

There are things you should know as a new writer. There are things you should remind yourself as a working writer. The biggest of these is that writing is just hard work for most people. It’s not as fun as people think it is and once you do two or three paragraphs, it gets harder and harder to keep pulling out material.

I once heard a great analogy for writing as a process: Writers, unlike other creatives, first have to make their material from scratch. A potter sits down with a lump of clay for example but a writer has to first make the clay with which to work; clay in the shape of the first words of any rough draft. Then a writer gets to work with those words like a potter works with clay. Making the clay can be boring stuff and very hard work besides. In this respect, writers are stuck with an extra layer of work above and beyond other artists. I would say that only a composer of music has the same experience. The composer must first have a piece of music with which to play his or her instrument.

On top of that, nonfiction writing is quite difficult even for creative types. Technical writing is hardest of all; even technical writing about artistic endeavors. To explain the process of craftsmanship takes a certain type of person; one who is a good teacher, really, a good expositor. In art school, for example, some of the best fine artists can’t articulate how they do the most basic things. If asked how they made a certain stroke, they would be hard pressed to put that experience into words.

This makes sense because many artists are drawn to a non-verbal medium in order to say what needs saying in the first place. When it comes to expression, they naturally gravitate toward non-verbal forms of expression. There are also certain Renaissance-persons who can then put down in words their experience with other artistic fields and they are most fortunate, though many would also say that for all that they feel well-rounded, they are not exactly masters of any craft itself.

So writing is hard. It takes a certain type of person willing to do two stages of work for the price of one. I’m not the first writer to make this declaration. It will be made by any writer who’s worked at writing for some time and knows that words will laugh at self-imposed or external deadlines. An old colleague used to tell me: ‘stories take the time they take.’ They will not be rushed for someone else’s time table; not even their own author’s.

The upside to all this extra work is that writers don’t need much equipment in order to practice their craft. We can wander around with not much more than 1) pen and paper, 2) a laptop 3) or some sort of note-taking device. We are a portable and inconspicuous people when compared to the art kits of painters going about plein air. I’ve gone plein air painting twice and while it’s great fun, it’s also material intensive compared to a legal pad and a ballpoint pen. Writers travel light but the work is invisibly more extensive.


Meditation for your journal: Give your next assignment some sentience and ask it what it wants out of you, rather than what you want out of it.