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02:12 pm: Wright's Writing Corner: Why Is Writing So Hard?

So…I have a question for all you writerly types out there:

Why is writing so hard?

Sure, sometimes it is easy. Sometimes, we have days like yesterday, when I sat down and wrote two complete scenes, both of which just flowed onto the page and were done. Just like that. Even John did not have any complaints with them. He even wrote “Good!” in the corner.

But then, there are days like today: my mind is a blank.

I sit here, regarding the enemy, a.k.a. THE BLANK PAGE.

It stares back.

We regard each other. We take stock of each other’s mettle.

I go check my email.

Nothing. I look at the page again. Still nothing.

I go check my friend’s list. Maybe there is something interesting there? I read a couple of posts by friends. I smile. I frown a bit or am sad with them. Occasionally, I post a note so that they know I was there.
Back to the page. What do you know? It’s still blank. I had so hoped it would fill itself in while I was gone.

I check Facebook. (This shows real desperation. I almost always forget about Facebook.)

I check back again. Still blank.

Hmm.

I get up and walk around the room. I check the temperature (101 degrees outside. Doesn’t matter what I do to the thermostat, it’s going to be miserable in here, too.) I feed the rabbit, even though this means going outside to get hay. I feed the cat, too.

A child interrupts me. I tell them to get their own drink because I’m busy writing. Then, I sigh and go get a drink, cut watermelon, settle a dispute, make them go outside to look at the baby bunny in the yard, make them go outside to see the praying mantis on the steps. (I tell them it’s the one from Kung Fu Panda. When it flips sideways to avoid us, I tell them it’s doing Kung Fu.)

Funny…the page is still blank.

I open an earlier chapter. Make a few changes. Contemplate how to make the first chapter seem less like YA. Hey, look, the page count is off. I spend twenty minutes repaginating the chapters…a useless exercise, since the moment I am done, I will cut and paste the whole thing into one file and it will page itself automatically.

I note that the page I am supposed to be writing is 349.

I make a change to Chapter 29. This brings my current page to 350.

Still, strangely, there is no writing on the page. How did that happen? So much time has gone by. Surely, the page might have produces a few words. No?

Not a one.

I check my email again. Yah! Someone wrote me. I spend some time composing an answer. See! I wrote something!

Oh…wait…the page is still blank.

Finally, I swallow. Gulp. I close my eyes. I take a deep breath.
Then, I put my fingers on the keyboard and make myself write.
Some days, there is no easier way.

 

 
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon


Comments

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From:annafirtree
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
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Sounds very Steven Pressfield-y. (A la "The War of Art".)
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Some days, it is a war out here at the blank page. ;-)
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From:annafirtree
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I think that's pretty much what he gets at. Have you ever read the book?
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC)
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Alas, no. John has read some of his books, but not that one.
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From:annafirtree
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I highly recommend it in general, although you may not need it. It's sort of a secular take on spiritual warfare as pertains to artistic efforts, and on inspiration as well.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
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I hear you. O, yes. Can't decide between rewriting the first few chapters (all I've got) of that equine historical to make the character more closely resemble my son--or if that would throw the whole thing in a different, unwanted direction.

So I stew and contemplate an adult historical mystery series set in an 18th century coffee shop. For that I have a few pages written.

Or maybe I should go back to that regency I dropped years ago... .
Screwtape and his minions are surely out there somewhere.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
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I in no way want to aid Screwtape and his minions...but I would love to read more of the Regency, should you return to it...

That is not to say that I would not enjoy the other two as well. ;-)
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From:bojojoti
Date:July 21st, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
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Unlike many disciplines, creativity doesn't always appear commensurate to our efforts.
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From:cdenmier
Date:July 21st, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)

What's More Daunting

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While I agree about the daunting nature of the blank page--those terrible moments when the engine, darn it all, will just NOT turn over--I more frequently encounter a more terrible foe: the full page.

There is nothing--nothing, I say!--that makes me shudder and procrastinate and find other work more than having to go back over a chapter or section and shave, tweak, axe, add and move. I look mournfully at all the words and look out the window of my mind's eye, longing for those free days in which the blank page was an endless field to run around in; when I could fill the void however I liked and with nary any restraint. Never mind that I know that most of what came out in those happy times was junk and that I need to rework...I often just grunt and moan and then decide to rewrite the whole dang thing.

And the cycle begins again!
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2011 09:23 pm (UTC)

Re: What's More Daunting

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Isn't that funny? I was just telling my mom that people like you existed. I was saying how much I loved editing and what trouble I had with the first run through, and she said, "everyone's that way" and I said, "No. I have friends who are the opposite. They love the writing and hate the rewriting."

Funny how different we all are!
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From:cdenmier
Date:July 22nd, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)

Re: What's More Daunting

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Funny indeed! Even though it's frustrating to have writer's block and pump out a scene that is flat and uninspired, I think that I take comfort in saying, "Well, I wrote something. Goal accomplished. I can always edit it later, right?"

Of course, "later" has a funny way of turning into "now", though.

I'm a bit spoiled by my years as a reporter for a newspaper. I used to be able to take all my notes and interviews and research, lay them all out in front of me, and whip out a decent story in less than an hour. Not like it wasn't edited (sometimes brutally), but I rarely had to do it myself. With fiction, the work is far more unfinished, is longer, and I'm the only editor.

You're right: we all have our struggles with the vast, faceless beast of inspiration...the seeming times when the muse have abandoned us and we stand unarmed on the field of war. Glad we all have so much company!
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2011 02:22 am (UTC)

Re: What's More Daunting

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>Glad we all have so much company!

So true, my friend! So very true!
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From:kokorognosis
Date:July 22nd, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
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This is me, too. Sometimes I get these bursts of motivation, and I'll sit down, open the file, and it will all drain out of me. Or I'll type half a page and decide I hate it and close the file. (Heck, I do that with 75% of the comments I intend to make on blogs, too.)

My biggest problem is that. I'm too temperamental to accept anything less than prose I'm 100% happy with, and it's hard to force myself to write.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
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I don't have that problem because I have just come to grips with the fact that my first version universally sucks.

It's just sometimes hard to make myself actually think. ;-)
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From:marycatelli
Date:July 22nd, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
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I first set a word quota to ensure I wrote more than I usually needed to warm up.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2011 01:04 am (UTC)
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I only put in word quotas when I stop getting work done by the end of the week. I should have done that this spring, sigh, but I'm back on track now.
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From:gingersea
Date:July 22nd, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
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I'm reminded of a quote from Red Smith, which I think of often when writing (or attempting to). (I'm going to paraphrase slightly to bring it into the computer age; I think he said "typewriter" not "blank page.")

"Writing is easy. You just sit and stare at the blank page until beads of blood form on your forehead."
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From:wenchpower
Date:July 22nd, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
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My goal is to end on a different page than I started on. Then I try to finish as close to the bottom of a page as possible. It means that the next day, I only need to write a sentence or two to get to the top of the next page. I stare at the new page, blank except for three or four words, sigh, and ask myself, "Am I really so blocked that it's worth having to write a whole new page tomorrow?" The answer is usually "no," so I bang out a few more paragraphs trying to get closer to the bottom of the page so I don't have to write as much tomorrow. By the time I've passed the halfway point, I'm usually in enough of a groove that I keep going and find myself writing multiple pages instead of just the one. It doesn't always work, but it's a lot better than when I tried to write to strict word counts. That just left me wringing my hands and wailing that I'd never get a thousand words, even if I chained myself to my chair all day.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 22nd, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
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Hey! It's Utena!

Clever idea. I'm glad it works. It makes sense.
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From:wenchpower
Date:July 30th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
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Of course, today I looked at my current page and saw this:

out.

Hoo boy. I couldn't even have written a long word? What the heck, Yesterday Me?
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