Tuesday, April 13, 2010

IS WRITING HARD?


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Taxes
Status: Almost done!

Is writing hard?


I'm going to propose the Henry Ford answer, "It is if you think it is."


Most of us have heard writers say sometimes stories just flow, and other times they need a dictionary to spell the word "hard." Do we make that choice--perhaps unconsciously?


My experience with drafting scene sheets for my nine-book series suggests we do make that choice. At first, the ideas flowed as fast as I could type them into the computer. I was amazed. Astonished. Awestruck.


Then worry snuck in that this couldn't last. And guess what? My worry started choking off the flow of words. Doing those scene sheets became a chore that I didn't want to face. So I started procrastinating--which I'm very good at and which is a sure sign that I'm avoiding a lesson I need to learn. But when I was completely honest with myself, I knew my fears were choking off my writing. If they were easy to write, the stories wouldn't be good enough. After all, writing is supposed to be hard, right? What if I wasted the time and money of my publisher? What if, what if, what if...


What if I just sat down and trusted the story to come? What if I knew surprises were in store for each scene that would fit perfectly? What if I just relaxed into the joy of writing?


And soon I did sit down. And the surprises came. And I enjoyed working on those scene sheets again.


Please notice that I didn't say I turned on my computer one day and found a completed story. I believe we still have to take action, but I also believe our perception of writing as hard or as a creative journey affects how the stories flow.


If we step back and look at those times when writing seems hard, we may learn that we've strayed from the story or taken a side road that has dead ended. Or we haven't dug deep enough into the emotions, motives or goals of the characters. Or we haven't done enough research. Or there's another issue with the story that we haven't recognized yet.


And perhaps the issue isn't the story at all. Maybe the issue is an external stress of short deadlines or the pressure of appealing to agents, editors, or readers. We want each story to have more action, more suspense, more sex, more something...


Yet if we let our writing journey unfold at its own pace, won't this happen naturally because we learn something with each book?


So what do you think? Is writing hard?


While you ponder these questions, I'm going back to working on my taxes--which I've put off for far too long. Then I'm going to take my own advice and work on my novella. Because writing flows easily, right?

17 comments:

Paty Jager said...

Very intuitive post, Genene.

I agree with everything you said. LOL

I believe it is our doubts and the little naysayer on our shoulder that makes writing hard. And the fact you want each book to be your best, so you knock yourself upside the head with doubt every step of the way which in turn makes writing the book harder.

If instead you just enjoy the process along the way, then it isn't a chore, it's a labor of love.

Kendra said...

This was very timely for me! Thanks, Genene. Im going to try changing my mindset and see if that gives me a boost. Sounds simple, almost too simple, but sometimes that's the true answer.

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Paty! I had more to this post that I cut. Some of that was examples of what had been shared in previous blog posts that talked about doubts and self-criticisms, as well as about finding our own writing process and focusing on writing the best book we can.

I see all of the talented writers in our group and sometimes ache when someone expresses doubt about their abilities.

You are stepping into unknown writing territory and facing all sorts of inner naysayers. Those of us who know you have no doubts you will accomplish whatever you set your mind to.

But perhaps moving past that doubt in our own minds and choosing to see writing as a labor of love is part of our own writing journey.

Genene Valleau said...

Kendra, what an exciting time for you!

I love the simplicity of "as you think, so shall it become." However, I've learned simple doesn't necessarily mean easy as I've slipped back into old habits (and doubts) time and again.

Hopefully, you'll be a faster learner than me as the whirlwind of your dream coming true becomes more intense in the next few months.

I'm looking forward to hearing more good news from you soon!

Alice Sharpe said...

Genene -- there's a lot of wisdom in what you say. I see myself all over the place. In fact, I don't think it was very sporting to use me as your model, wink, wink, ack!

I'm going to work on letting go. Timely blog for me, too. Thanks.

Genene Valleau said...

My turn for ACK, Alice! And apologies! I reread my post and discovered--to my great embarrassment--that I have potentially offended every published author.

Actually, the only time I used you as a role model in writing this was the wisdom in last Thursday's post about focusing on writing the best book we can.

My thoughts on short deadlines were the results of discussions on the many posts I receive--and my own bafflement--that multi-published authors question their writing ability. These ladies (and I count you among them) are so talented that it's beyond my limited experience to imagine they have doubts.

You are very open about your process of doing a lot of thinking about your stories, but once you start a story, you make it seem easy to write to breath-stealing short deadlines.

I am going to edit my post and hopefully take out any offensive pieces. Please let me know if I need to redo it again. And again, my apologies!

Alice Sharpe said...

don't you dare edit a thing! Stop right now. Put it back. Ack! I was joking! I was also serious. Don't edit!

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I obviously didn't read the unedited piece, (I feel like I missed something!) but I'm going to answer your question and say bluntly, yes, writing is hard.

My CP and I had this discussion last week - about writers who brag about books writing themselves vs. those of us who struggle. I'll admit...I have said a time or two, "That book wrote itself!" but what I really meant was the idea came to me easier than one I had to search for. MARKED was one of those ideas that hit me and wouldn't let go - but that doesn't mean *writing* the book was easy.

Every day writing is a struggle for me. Is it fear? Probably. Is it personal and professional expectations? Most likely. Is it because I'm pushing myself to dig deeper, write better, pull out more emotion, make *this* book better than the last? Absolutely.

If writing were easy, I don't think I'd do it. That sounds elitist, but I think there's a lot of truth to it. There are days I absolutely HATE writing. I would rather pull my eyebrows out one by one than write. But even when I HATE writing, I do it because it's a challenge I love. At the end of the day, when I've written 3K words or finished a new scene or typed "The End" on a book, I'm reminded why I wrote it in the first place. The day writing isn't hard for me is the day I know I've lost my edge.

As for short deadlines (I should really shut up now, LOL), they definitely make writing harder all around. Gone is the luxury of pondering your characters and scenes and plot. The bottom line in this business is, if you want to be successful, you have to be prolific. And being prolific means being able to work on a short deadline. No matter how hard it is.

Genene Valleau said...

Too late, Alice! The doubt monster has grabbed me by the throat -- aaaaack!

Gasp, gulp -- saved by my herd of dogs! They don't want to miss dinner tonight.

Did I mention my latest self-improvement book recommends--actually, demands facing mistakes and making them right? Hopefully I've done that (although with a bit of melodrama).

Now I'm going to dig out my books on editing my writing and reread them...

Cyberhugs to you for being the wise and wonderful person you are!

Alice Sharpe said...

I'm really sorry I made you doubt yourself! Your blog was excellent and I truly was just being a smarty pain in the neck. I didn't take anything personally, I just saw myself and if a mirror is held up and your reflection fills the glass, don't you have to be blind not to recognize your own image? And isn't knowing yourself what life is about? Either that or it's about Hawaii and Mai Tais. Maybe it's the Main Tais.... I have to think about that...

Bottom line, we shouldn't have to mine words and pussy foot around. Your made valid points and I respect them. Tell the doggies to nip your heels the next time you second guess yourself!

And as for what Eli said -- I agree with her, too. Writing is sometimes really difficult. Painful. The business side is tedious and terrifying and ego smashing and the writing side is boring, thrilling and terrifying.

Paty Jager said...

What Alice said "The business side is tedious and terrifying and ego smashing and the writing side is boring, thrilling and terrifying."

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Eli! All you missed was my sloppy editing and embarrassment. Hopefully, that's been erased by the "magic" of computers. :)

You bring up some interesting points that I think reflect our different journeys.

"If writing were easy, I don't think I'd do it. That sounds elitist, but I think there's a lot of truth to it...even when I HATE writing, I do it because it's a challenge I love."

I don't think this sounds elitist. As you also say, you are a person who enjoys a challenge. As for me, I'd rather take the path with thornless roses. LOL! In fact, when I first started writing seriously, I struggled with putting my characters through conflict. Yeah, doesn't make much of a story without conflict, does it?

Yet my experiences as a middle child and the peacemaker in a family of sometimes volatile tempers made me want to jump directly to happily-ever-after. I've had to find a writing process that lets me put conflict in my stories without putting knots of tension in my shoulders. (Yes, I spent years of struggle getting to this process.)

You also said, "The bottom line in this business is, if you want to be successful, you have to be prolific."

Again, this points out our different journeys. When I relax into writing, I'm more productive. When I try to force the words to come, they tend to disappear. Yet you seem to thrive on challenges. Viva la difference, as they say!

Does that mean my books write themselves? Hasn't happened yet. I still have to show up at the computer, learn my lessons, and dig, dig, dig (as well as use the thesaurus :). But as I've learned to take joy in that process, I've been rewarded with nuggets of inspired ideas. The real test of my new process vs. my less-than-productive past habits is yet to come.

As always, I find our different processes and journeys fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

Genene Valleau said...

Mai tais might work when dealing with the business side of writing!

That's one "monster" I've not been enthusiastic about pursuing. Kudos to those of you who have ventured into its cave and survived its snapping jaws. (No offense meant to the publishing world. :)

Katie said...

Wow, this post is beautiful. And just what I needed, too! Thank you so much. I really appreciate your words! They're perfect.

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Katie! Glad you stopped by, and glad the post and comments were of help. You seem to be doing quite well at finding a writing process that works for you!

wavybrains said...

This was a great post with even better comments :) This discussion was what I needed to see today.

Genene Valleau said...

Hi, Wavy! So glad you stopped by and enjoyed the discussion. Hope you have more energy now!