*Warning: No editing has occurred for this post. 😉
What is a writer to do when he or she hears the statement ‘writing is hard’? Well, if you are me, you take a deep breath and do one of two things; a facepalm or take the time to work with the person. In this blog post, I hope that, should you be someone who believes writing is ‘hard’, I can offer another view. Here’s my spiel.
Wandering Thesis Statement: Writing is not hard.
First, let’s see if we can agree on one point. Writing is an action. If a physical or learning disability is not an issue for you, I think we can state that the phrase ‘writing is hard’ is not correct. What I believe people are stating is that attributes around creating a story is difficult. Do you agree this is the true meaning behind the statement? If so, continue on.
I stand before a class of fourth graders and tell them they are free to write whatever they wish for fifteen minutes. How many children would have a blank piece of paper at the end of that span of time? One or two? As one who has taught, I can tell you that these blank sheets are due to the child’s inability to select one of the many ideas coming into their heads, unsure where to start, or not feeling well. Given the project another day and these few would also be gleefully creating a story for themselves. So, ‘writing is hard’? Not to children. Then why would an adult say the opposite?
Fact. Many adult who are new to writing have taken in the lessons of self-critique only to create a wall of self-inadequacy, legendary ego, or fear. Compare this to children, who are concerned with their writing only after being critiqued, which are only too happy to create something from a single thought. Seriously. It is all about attitude. Want proof? Below is a typical conversation that I have had with both adults and children. Please note the attitude in the response after having given them the same answer.
Question from child or adult: “How do I start writing a book?”
My Answer: “Close your eyes and write what you see.”
Child reaction: “Cool!”
Adult reaction: “But stories must begin with an engaging action that both identifies setting and tells of the character’s proactive approach to problem solving while captivating the reader. The narrative of every story should be an invitation to readers to accept the world and its inhabitants while encouraging them to discover the ethos of the characters. To simply start with a random scene, as you suggest, would be an obstacle to creating a realistic plotline for my story and a waste of time.”
Yep. That’s generally what I hear. A child thinks the task is awesome while an adult wants to regurgitates the lesson of a ‘how to write’ book and begin a debate. Let me ask you this. Which of the two have the right attitude to be productive? And, if I may, which truly enjoys what they are doing?
Yes, there are aspects of writing a story that are challenging, but a child doesn’t spend hours on Facebook or Twitter stating the pains of writing. What gives? Attitude. The ‘I can’ and ‘this is fun’ attitude of a child allows them to forgo all the stifling crap adults have stuffed into their heads. Children quickly create stories that are unique, funny and poignant while adults sit and ponder which outlining technique is the best. In short, children can free-write, pants, or self-discover with very little prompting or care. The proverbial writing mantra of ‘what if’ is second nature to them. That’s how their minds work. That is how your mind used to work. If writing is ‘hard’ to you, perhaps you need to recapture that childlike mindset you once had.
The first thing to do is decide if you must write. I did not say want. I said, must. This is an important question and needs to be honestly answered. If you are thinking of stories while driving or doing other things, you may be onto the answer. If you turn off the tv and start writing something you wish you watching, another hint to the answer. Perhaps you forget there are people in the house while writing. This is certainly a very good indicator that the answer is ‘yes’. However, if writing is defined in your mind as a means to be known as ‘a writer’, believe that it is a good way to get dates with fellow coffee shop customers, or, heaven forbid, think that it is the way to become rich, you can safely state the real answer is a ‘no’ and need to find another way to spend hours, days, weeks and years. For those that have selected ‘yes’ on their test sheet, please continue on.
At this point, we know you must write and are aware that the phrase ‘writing is hard’ is misleading. Should you have difficulties writing, let’s define your road blocks. We have already seen that a child can write, but perhaps recapturing your youth seems a bit out of touch. To make this more likely, I ask that you make a list of what is so insurmountable. Is it a problem of learning punctuation? Is it outlining or creating interesting characters? Perhaps it may be sentence structure. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, so I ask that you list them as things you will learn. Despite what some may say, writers are not born with a pen and a pad of paper in their hands and novel in their head. There are things to be learned and it takes time. Writing “well” is a goal that continues before you with every step. Agree now that you will look at writing as pants you will grow into and set this list aside for the time being.
Now we are ready. Drift back to what you were really into as a child. Imagine the pictures you drew at the kitchen table or in your notebook in high school during study hall. What was it? Cars? Sunsets? Playgrounds? Castles and dragons? It could have been anything, but you chose to draw it. Hell, it might have been skull and crossbones or a picture of a tattoo you wanted to get when you were older. It doesn’t matter. You drew these things as an escape or a way to express what freedom meant to you. You may have shown someone, but that wasn’t why you drew or painted it. You, free from all the ‘how to draw’ books or art critiques let your mind wander. This is what you need to do when writing.
Next, let’s turn off our inner-editor for a moment and close our eyes. Randomly pick a character or scene and let it take center stage in your mind. Describe it out loud. This is, of course, prefaced with the act of telling everyone in earshot that you are ‘writing’. Now, what do you see? What do you hear? Who is talking? Stop. Open your eyes, and write it. Editing comes later, just write what you just told yourself. Stop. Repeat the step. Stop. Write. Repeat. Look at the ceiling or a blank wall and picture it if that helps. It’s all good.
Feel odd to do? Of course! You’re out of practice with dealing with no boarders. Ever hear a child sing while they draw or even have a conversation as they write? They are in the moment and enjoying it. You can too. Your child-you is still in there, it just hasn’t been let out to play and has been hushed by all the ‘You must write like this’ garbage that is practically everywhere you look. Taking a moment to have a playdate with your past will help, if you let it.
Take a look at what you wrote. Does it lend itself to a story idea you would enjoy writing? If not, take out another piece of paper and do it again. Now, what exactly was ‘hard’ about that? ‘But that’s not how so-and-so does it.’ Well, they don’t think writing is hard and you do. They have their own way of bringing out the wonder within them. So, until you can sit down and simply start writing, try my idea for a few writing sessions. I have a feeling you will be happy to see the child-you again and hear some amazing tales.
Conclusion: Writing is ‘hard’? No. Don’t believe me? Go ask your inner-child and don’t be surprised if he/she looks at you in an odd way.
Bless and Keep,