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Madelaine Shaw-Wong



When Writing is Hard

Posted on January 24, 2018 at 5:45 PM

Should I give up on writing? When writing is difficult it is certainly a temptation. Why should I waste hours fussing over a paragraph, or scene, or a bit of dialogue? I could spend the time in other pursuits – exercising, or reading great literature, or catching up my favourite television series. Instead, I am parked in front of my computer screen, obsessing over words.

I think of Paul Simon’s lyrics from Kathy’s Song, when I become discouraged by writing:

“I don't know why I spend my time

Writing songs I can't believe

With words that tear and strain to rhyme.”

I am not a poet, but I understand the frustration and struggle involved in finding just the right words and phrasing needed to express myself. Words are inadequate tools when trying to describe complex thoughts and feelings. Some analogies come to mind:  Imagine the effort involved in digging a hole with a plastic spoon. Try pushing a cart with a wobbly wheel, or sweeping a floor with a worn-out broom.

Writing is hard. No, writing is painful. As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.”

Why do I struggle to put words on a page? I know, without a doubt, some people won’t like what I’ve written. They will object to my theme, my point of view, or how I express myself. I set myself up for criticism every time I publish a piece of writing. I wonder if this is a masochistic tendency, or perhaps it is my ego, though I have never been one to crave attention.

Sometimes, I feel that worse than criticism or unwanted attention is deafening silence, when no one seems to listen or care.

Most writers I know are sensitive people. That’s what enables us to do what we do. The irony is: being sensitive makes us vulnerable to unkind comments. Most writers I know are shy, and yet, we are in a profession where if we want to be successful we must be in the limelight. Why do we do it? Why do we expose ourselves to criticism?

There must be something deeper, an innate urge to produce something meaningful, something that we hope will last for generations. This is not for our own benefit, for why should we care what people think of us in a hundred or two hundred years? I, for one, want to make a positive impact on the world, or at least my little corner of the world.

When one creates something beautiful, it is beyond satisfying. A deep need is fulfilled. A beautiful story, a piece of music, a painting, or dance, “speaks” to something in the human soul, an essential part of the human experience. For me, the option of not writing is a terrible one. Life would be less meaningful.

A fellow blogger had this to say: “We need art because it makes us complete human beings… We need to understand our individual and shared history.” https://speakartloud.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/41/#comment-906

Even if I want to quit writing, I can’t. I am compelled to continue until I can no longer sit at a keyboard or hold a pen. Quitting is out of the question.

Categories: My writing journey

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