Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why is it so hard?

I know this:

250 words, get up and get another cup of coffee.
250 words, get up and scratch the dogs' ears.
250 words, eat lunch.
250 words, declare victory and spend the rest of the day editing, chasing new work, bookkeeping or, better, yet, walking, working dogs, hunting, or working in the garden.

I'm happiest, sometimes nearly euphoric when I'm writing. I know from long experience, that I need to get my 1000 words in before mid-afternoon, after which my mind slows. I know that I'm tormented when I don't get my work done.

Why, then, do I fight it? Why do I so often sit, churn, and obsess rather than simply write "one true sentence?"

I often wonder if that mental interference or static is really destructive, a symptom of some character flaw or inborn limitation, or somehow essential.


stevea said...


Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Even if you aren't following The Rules, it's all there.

I've done better work in 30 minutes well after a "hard" deadline has passed than in the weeks leading up to it.

God help those around us who live through the span of "I have to do this" to "I have done it."

Matt Mullenix said...

I think the 20 hours a day you don't spend writing are a necessary part of the process.

Henry Chappell said...

Steve and Matt, I agree, but I sure envy writers who seem to be able to sit down and put in a good day's work like a carpenter building a set of shelves. No fretting, just do the work because that's the job that has to be done. I think journalists are more inclined to work this way than novelists, but think of Updike, Oates, et al.

Thanks for stopping by!

Matt Mullenix said...

A carpenter has a toolbox and ready materials, and a blueprint! Not every kind of writing is analogous to that.

What I do day-to-day is fairly straightforward stuff: press releases and public remarks. For these pieces, a carpentry metaphor is apt.

But writing something big and evocative, painful or pleasurable, moving, meaningful, lasting, and true? For this there's no special tool or trade school.

I never bought the "99% perspiration v. 1% inspiration" theory of good writing. Sure it's work, but the real stuff comes down from on high, or up from the depths, or from deep inside the bottle. Anyway, from someplace bigger than you, and that you can't master.

Perhaps if the carpenter grew his own trees from seed, made his own rain, sun and soil, then the metaphor would work.

Steve Bodio said...

I don't think it is EASY, even for the big producers. They may have more discipline or less restlessness but every writer I know suffers the same problems!

AustenofBoston said...

Amen. I know how you feel. I think trying to give myself a goal for each day really helps. I usually have to do stuff intermintently during the day so I can actually get it done in the first place. Writing has to be the hardest career in the book but writers don't get paid nearly enough for their genius. It takes so much dedication and concentration. And don't even get me started on distractions. Oh, boy. I know how you feel.