This past Christmas my family and I journeyed up to my grandma’s house in Mendota Heights to celebrate the holiday with my dad’s side of the family. Everything was going as scheduled: the adults gathered upstairs to drink and catch up on their work, vacations, and children; the cousins sat downstairs awkwardly trying to include everyone in the conversation.
Somehow, we got on the topic of career goals, and my cousin who had graduated last spring with a bachelor’s degree in economics jokingly said that since he had a lot of free time he was going to write a book.
“I mean how hard could it be?” he said with a chuckle.
“Okay,” I said, “what genre would you write?”
“What do you mean?”
I took a deep breath to ease my growing frustration. “I mean like what kind of books would you write?”
“I don’t know,” he said, smiling, “like murder mysteries.”
“Cool.” I grabbed for my drink and took a swig.
This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t want my cousin to write a novel, nor that I think he is incapable of doing so; but as a creative writing major I felt my heart race and stomach somersault in a fit of rage when he said it couldn’t be that hard.
As writers, we often come in contact with people who don’t always appreciate our skills, and they are skills. They don’t realize how much time actually goes into making a great piece great. Just as it takes professional athletes or musicians years of practice to hone their technique, so too must writers’ work to improve.
Now that I have had some space and time to think, I have thought of a few reasons why writing is tougher than he—and many other people—might think, as well as some tips to make it easier and more fun.
Physically writing is one of the hardest steps in the writing process.
Weird right? Many people think this is the fun part, but if you go into it feeling stressed, tired, bored, cranky, etc. the fun part can turn into the most frustrating part of the experience. Some days it’s easy enough to put it off, to tell yourself you’ll write tomorrow or the next day, but before you know it, a month has passed and you haven’t written two sentences.
This is why it’s important to set up a schedule that works for you. Maybe you work best at seven in the morning, or maybe you rock ten at night like nobody’s business. It doesn’t matter when you write—or even how long—as long as you make time to write.
Writers must constantly acknowledge that no first draft—or fifth for that matter—is ever brilliant.
Bad first drafts exist and they can bum you out big time. It can be discouraging to look at the first draft of a piece you worked hard creating only to see that it’s not very good. As much as you may want to give up at that point, it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect draft. Yes, even your tenth draft will not be perfect, but you will continue to get better the more you work on your piece.
Getting feedback from peers is an important step in the writing process.
This includes feedback from your writer friends as well as your non writer friends. The first group can help you improve your craft, while the latter group can tell you if your piece is readable and enjoyable.
As helpful as receiving this feedback is, it’s not always fun. Actually, it’s almost never fun. There are no words to describe the feeling you get when everyone critiquing your piece tells you everything wrong with it. Believe me, it hurts, but it will ultimately help you discover your strengths and weaknesses. Once you know these, you can take the next step and begin revisions.
So there you have it. Writing is not just scribbling on a piece of paper. It’s challenging, thought provoking, and sometimes downright infuriating. In fact, I’d be willing to bet every writer has thought about quitting at one time or another. But even with all its difficult points, writing is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have. Nothing feels better than looking at your piece and realizing it didn’t exist until you wrote it.
Meet the blogger:
MEGHAN O’BRIEN is a junior at Hamline University pursuing a double major in English and Creative Writing. She one day hopes to write a publishable book and enjoys reading chick lit and murder mysteries. Her favorite authors—at the moment—are Gillian Flynn and Sophie Kinsella.