Jeff Daniels, actor and author of fourteen plays, said, “Writing is hard. Writing well is very, very hard.”
Raise your hand if you agree. Ah, you… and you, and you. I’ll raise my hand too because sometimes I find writing is terribly hard business. Not all the time, no, but occasionally.
Are we whiners? Author Garrison Keillor thinks so. He says of writers who tell others how agonizing it is for them to get words on paper, “It's the purest form of arrogance…” He goes on to state that writers don’t have a monopoly on hard work. Writing is no harder, and probably a lot less difficult, than any other occupation. Writers, he says, should quit our “self-involved moaning over the agonies” of our art.
Feeling chagrined yet? I was, but then I found another view on why writing is hard work, this one from author Gerald Weinberg. He argues that writing is hard if you don’t want to write. He’s referring to those things we put off writing time after time. Chances are it probably doesn’t need writing in the first place, specifically, the pointless, boring, superfluous writing that should never see the light of day. That kind of writing is the result of writers not wanting to write. He says. “If it's that hard, drop it and get on with something fun.”
This all hits home with me today because I’m struggling with a scene for my novel. I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking about knowing exactly what I want to write and not being able to do it. Yes, I want to whine about it, I want pats on the back, and encouragement from fellow writers. Why else would I “moan over the agonies of my art”? (If the convenience store clerk can complain about his feet hurting after standing all day at the register, why can’t I complain too?)
Weinberg’s words worry me somewhat. I’m beginning to wonder if the reason I whine is because I want confirmation that what I’m doing needs to see the light of day. Maybe it doesn’t. Is this scene resisting me because it doesn’t need writing? Niggling doubts wedge themselves into my thoughts as I sit stymied at the computer.
Even so, I’m not ready to give up on the scene because I believe in it, and because I believe in myself. I’m not adrift with an aimless goal nor am I’m floundering because I don’t know what needs to be done. I’ve reached a place in my writing where I’m going places I haven’t dared go both creatively and technically. I’m experiencing growing pains, if that makes sense.
So writing well is very, very hard at times and I do grumble and grouse about it, if only to be encouraged by my friends and fellow writers.
Do you find writing difficult, or is it your playground, a perpetually carefree place to play with your characters? If it is hard, why not pull a Weinberg and find something else to write about, or hey, take up a new interest like watching goldfish swim in a bowl? Personally, I’ll endure the “agonies of my art” and leave the goldfish-watching to fainter hearts.