The #1 Lie About Writing

Writing is easy. I just sit at my typewriter until beads of blood form on my forehead.

Many years ago, I was stuck in an airport with a guy from my college. We didn't know each other well, and had previously only exchanged a few tight-lipped nods at brunch, but our flight from LA to New York was delayed a few hours, so we chatted to pass the time.

I asked him what we did for a living, and I was happy to learn that he too was a writer--a screenwriter, in fact, who'd had a few of his scripts optioned. But our feeling of scribal kinship was soon transformed into a one of dread and self-loathing. While New York was being bombarded by a snow storm, I was bombarded with his gushing platitudes about how much he "loved to write" and how "he had the greatest job in the world" and how he wrote "12 hours a day."

The more he talked, the sicker I felt, until I finally excused myself and hid behind the snacks aisle at Hudson News. What the hell is wrong with me? I thought. I'd written articles for a bunch of magazines, and while I loved seeing my name in print, I wouldn't exactly call the process a passionate romance.

I've thought about this encounter over the years and realized that it was about as honest as a Trump press conference. Anyone who tells you how much they love writing is either lying for crying out for help. Real writers love finishing writing, reading it once it's done, and getting accolades about their work. But the actual process of sitting down and motivating yourself to write every day? Pure, unadulterated, hell. 

Writing is not some sort of passionate love affair; it's more like a marriage. It starts off as an exciting crush, moves into a committed relationship, and next thing you know you're living together, fighting, making up, compromising, and learning things about one another that you never wanted to know. When it's good it's really good, and when it's bad it's horrible. Sometimes you feel like you're only hanging in there for the kids. Other times you know exactly why you got into it in the first place. 

Every writer I know has experienced "the zone"— that magical place where time just ceases to exist and the words flow effortlessly and beautifully, like the waves of Maui. Problem is the zone is about as elusive as Maui, unless you live in Maui, then it's as elusive as Boise, Idaho. 

So don't worry if you don't love to write. Just sit down, force yourself to put words down on the page, and suffer like the rest of us.

And if you're too busy or frustrated to do it yourself, you can always hire a poor sucker like me to do the dirty work for you. I promise I won't hide out at Hudson News.

Jonathan SmallComment