Is writing hard for you? So much that you start wondering about your mental sanity each time you sit down to write?
Don’t worry, writing is supposed to be hard, if anybody tells you otherwise they’re either a genius, lying or maybe forgotten how hard it was for them in the beginning.
Yesterday I couldn’t write.
I wanted to write about how I learned to find contentment in scarcity. I had my theme and my outline and my ideas. But then I stared at the blank page for hours typing some excruciatingly bad sentences before turning away from it all eaten by despair.
Today I deleted the 1,000 words I’d half-written yesterday and I started over dreading the beginning of another writing session.
That’s what writing consistently really looks like. Sometimes words will flow, sometimes they won’t.
It’s like trying to catch a wave with your surf board. When you’re inexperienced you’re more likely to fall from your board and be dragged to the shore by the current (been there, done that!), than to actually put both feet on that board and elegantly surf through the waves.
It’s a bit like running. You put on those shoes and feel proud of yourself, until you hit the asphalt and feel the pain eating you from within. In fact, try asking me when I’m cursing under my breath and trying to drag my ass through the asphalt: do I love running?
I assure you my answer will be: f*ck off.
Try asking me if I love running when I do it consistently and finish a 10K race: hell yeah I do!
That’s why I hate when authors write in their biographies that writing comes naturally to them. Seriously?
It doesn’t come naturally to me. And I doubt it comes naturally to other newbies.
The reality is that some days, writing will come naturally, but other days it won’t. The frequency of those good writing session increases with practice and patience. It does not depend on the random nature of life, gifts and talent.
I may find myself writing an entire blog post in less than an hour, it happens quite frequently now with a few unhappy exceptions (like yesterday). But this flow doesn’t just happen when I’m writing fiction. I’ve been writing blog posts for a long time. But not fiction.
When I decided I would once again attempt to write fiction, I started by trying to write an entire novel, only to realize I didn’t have enough stamina to get me through a project as huge as that. So, I decided to write short stories instead.
Ever since I made that decision, I hardly remember having a good fiction writing session. It happened in the beginning, when my brain was ecstatic about a new idea. And then it died, leaving a very confused and insecure writer to figure out how to transform that idea into a story with a decent end.
I’ve been trying to write short stories for months.
It’s always the same: I sit down to write and I just end up feeling I might go insane. At the end of most writing sessions, my forehead is cringed, there’s a frustrated and maniacal look on my eyes and I just want to grab by battered laptop and throw it off the window and pretend I never wanted to write fiction in the first place.
On the next day, I picked up my laptop hoping things will get easier only to find that they didn’t.
I hate those writing sessions. It’s hard to put words on the page. I’m constantly doubting my choices, characters and setting. I’m constantly wondering if writing fiction in English as a non-native speaker is not a suicide mission. If someone will ever take me seriously. If people will even like my stories.
And if I were to trust those authors that say that writing stories comes naturally to them, then it means it’s time for me to give up.
There’s no flow in my words, no nice and quiet confidence. No feeling of a job well done. And I have to be honest, most days I want to give up. I don’t want to sit down and suffer for another hour. I don’t want to feel incompetent and frustrated. I want the flow that comes so naturally to the experienced writers. The flow that comes naturally when I write an article and blog post.
But maybe it’s time for more writers to speak up and tell you this. Natural talent is not essential to become a professional writer. Not even in fiction. Only practice takes the amateur to the level of a professional.
I realized I wasn’t writing enough fiction.
That’s is why I have reduced my presence on social media. And why I’ve slowed down on my reading pace.
I need to pour those hours I used before to build an audience to the deliberate practice of writing fiction. I need to teach myself to write fiction. I need to put down in words those hideous first drafts.
Time will tell if I’m a good storyteller or not. But I will never forget that it never came naturally to me.
And if I can sit down and endure those hours of excruciating self-doubt, you can do it too.
Image credit: Fred Kearney on Unsplash