If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard. — William Zinnser
You know when I don’t write? When I don’t want to.* That’s really the only time. . . it’s not because I’m too busy or because I lack “inspiration” (that lie of an idea that we throw up when we want to elevate and excuse our work). It’s because I just don’t want to do it or I want to do something else more.
The reason I don’t want to write – it’s hard. Pretty simple. It doesn’t give me callouses or bruises – at least not one’s anyone can see. But it takes a strength that sometimes I don’t really want to flex. And sometimes, I’m just lazy, too lazy to do the hard work.
Writing is hard in myriad ways:
- It’s hard to come up with an idea that excites me enough that I want to close Facebook, hide my “to do” list, ask the people I love to give me just a few minutes of space. That’s hard work most days.
- It’s hard to sustain my focus on that idea to a point where I can hear my true voice, to keep Facebook closed, to ignore the incoming email, to not wander away into thoughts about my budget, or what’s for dinner, or the way that person right there is aching so hard it hurts me, too.
- It’s hard to justify time on something that doesn’t make much (or any) money in a culture that says the things that earn the dollar are worth more, even though I know that’s not true.
- It’s hard to come to the page every day when I know that our culture values entertainment more than insight and I write for insight – my own and maybe, if I”m fortunate, others’.
- It’s hard to edit, to cut away words that were so hard to put down in the first place, to read carefully and objectively to see what I don’t naturally see.
- It’s hard to share my words – although that is part of writing in the way I do it – because every time I share I risk the three reactions I fear most: apathy, anger or attack, even if it’s justified.
Still, here I am, tapping out my 1,000 words every day. . . and every day, I feel good, cleared up and righted by the practice. Because I’ve learned this – from life and the farm, it’s often the hard stuff that brings along the really amazing stuff.
Here’s how I get past the “hard” and to the page:
- I set a measurable goal – for me, that’s 1,000 words 5 days a week.
- I accomplish that goal as early in the day as possible – right now, I write those 1,000 words after I’ve managed the overnight accumulation of tasks and done the farm chores. In winter, I’ll do it before dawn.
- I refuse to justify the days I don’t write with excuses about too little time or too much to do. Everyone has 24 hours; everyone is busy, and yet other people wrote that day.
- I don’t belittle or shame myself if I don’t write one day. I have enough ugly voices shouting in my head; I don’t need to add another. Instead, I let yesterday be yesterday, and I start again today.
Some days, I don’t get here to this place of words, and I feel it in me by about 3pm – this antsiness, the way stress creeps beneath my shoulder blades. When that feeling comes, I recognize it. I try to ease it by writing, but if I choose not to get to that, I let it go, accept the day for what it has given and what it has not, and commit again to the words for tomorrow. No shame. No guilt. Just commitment. . . because it’s only the commitment that will get me past the hard.
What about you? What’s hard about writing and life for you? How do you get yourself to do the hard things?
*A note here about privilege – I am extremely privileged to live a life that allows me to have the choice to write for a living, where I have the time to do so. I realize that not everyone has that time or that privilege, and one of the reasons I get so weary of privileged people saying they don’t have time, or ideas, or skill . . . is because many underprivileged people ACTUALLY don’t have time, or resources, or opportunity. They work from dawn to dusk just to make enough money or harvest enough food and water to feed themselves and their families that day. They live in squalid conditions that make pen and paper – much less a computer – impossible. They are in circumstances where other people have complete control over their lives and sometimes their bodies. So I take none of my privilege for granted. . . and I hope my work honors – and I pray maybe even changes – the lives of underprivileged people so that they can have time and resources, and so that we can hear the stories they want to tell.