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J.T. Chris

Writing well is torturous sometimes

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In a new article by Sarah Labrie, the author talks about a subject many writers shy away from discussing: how excruciatingly difficult it is. The article resonated with me in that I am often guilty of staring for hours at a blinking cursor before ending each session by slamming my fist on the keyboard, having not penned a single coherent sentence.

It's not writer's block she's talking about. The act of writing itself is as utilitarian as it gets: string a few words together into a sentence and punctuate. Sure, anyone is capable of doing it with practice. But it's the idea that writing well isn't as easy as slaving over the keyboard and composing whatever slog inspires you. I can write pages and pages of useless, incoherent drivel no problem, but at the end of the day, if the sentences aren't singing on the page, have I truly written anything at all?

Sometimes the best writing is performed on a whim, in a single session or over a long weekend, Labrie writes. It's all the writing we do in between--that manuscript you toil over that goes nowhere, the short story where the words just aren't coming out right, or the vignette where the beauty and subtlety of language is elusive, that can be the most difficult to get through. The act of writing well is either an accidental lark, contingent upon how inspired one is, or the result of exhaustive, difficult work. That's the way it goes for me, anyway. I am not one of those writers who can fabricate an elegant and poignant sentence in the breadth of a yawn. I need to rewrite that sentence again and again and again before I am anywhere close to satisfied with it. As such, writing well takes me an inordinately large amount of time. I often find that my ability to write well is contingent upon how much I've read that day or the previous night. If I sit down dry, so to speak, I'm going to be in for a painful time.

But writing well is supposed to be difficult, Labrie surmises. If writing well were as second-nature as Tweeting about the latest political gunk or texting a best friend about dinner plans, I'm not quite sure it would be as satisfying in the end. Having sat down and composes like your fingers were on fire is one of the greatest accomplishments there is. We often wish that everything we write is going to be as effortless as that one story everyone seems to rave about, but not all of our work is coming to come that easily. Sometimes we simply have to toil over a project until it's finished.

For anyone interested in reading the article, you can find it here.

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  1. Smith's Avatar
    This post made me feel very understood. Thank-you.

    It's why I can't understand how people can say it's an enjoyable process, and guilt you into believing you might not be a writer if you don't enjoy every waking second of it. That's preposterous. It's difficult work that brings with it a lot of disappointment and frustration.

    An actual problem would be if you didn't enjoy it at all.
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