I’ve often come across writers who love to talk about how easy it is. How it comes naturally to them. How they can just put pen to paper and everything just bleeds out. Those people need to stop lying. They make writing sound so easy, and it’s definitely not.
I was eavesdropping on a couple of coworkers one day (not that I’m nosey or anything) and they were discussing writing. One was a fanfiction writer and the other wrote short stories in her spare time. Throughout their discussion they would talk about how amazingly easy the process is. “It’s great. Everything just pours out of you!”
I don’t doubt that the writing process may be super easy to some people. But it’s definitely not something that I’ve found that I can just sit back and do. It’s a constant battle from start to finish. But, the beauty is in that battle. To me, it’s knowing that I’ve struggled and spent countless hours trying to make something work that makes it special. And after struggling and quitting, and then struggling and quitting some more, being able to create something now feels like a victory.
When I was younger, I was even more creative. I had lots of spiral notebooks that I would fill with the most random stories—teen slasher stories, romances, stories with personified animals, whatever happened to pop into my head at the moment. Despite being creative, I was more fearful of the process. I thought that if it wasn’t perfect the first time, then it needed to be scrapped. For every one story that I completed to my satisfaction, there were two or three that had ended up in the trash bin. My desire for perfection caused me to avoid anything that was too difficult.
Because everything had to be flawless, I misconstrued any criticism of my work to mean that I need to quit. The slightest criticism, however well-meaning, would be a shot to my confidence and I would stop completely. The first time I quit was when I was a freshman in high school. I had let a friend read one of my stories. She didn’t have much in the way of constructive criticism, except to say that it was “un-Christian” and “slutty” to write a story about a girl kissing. Looking back, I can think two things. One, WTF? Two, whether or not the story was good (honestly, it wasn’t), it could have been improved with more work. But instead of working more on it, I was so crushed that I had received any type of criticism that I threw out all of my stories and stopped writing.
I attempted to write again in undergrad, and actually had a better time. I wrote articles for the college newspaper and had even received praise from one of my professors. Although I’d written articles, I still had not written a short story for a while. Then, one day I decided to take a short story writing workshop. I was really excited, right up until another student told me that my story was complete bullshit. Those were her exact words. “This story is bullshit.” After that point, I just decided that writing wasn’t for me. I did the bare minimum of what I needed to do to pass, and I stopped. Again.
Throughout the years of trying to find something else to become interested in, I always came back to writing. My desire to write survived years of me having my brain beaten down by years of mindless jobs and activities. The biggest obstacle that I face is getting my ideas on paper without second-guessing myself. What if it sounds stupid? What if it doesn’t make sense? What if nobody reads it? I can beat myself down but, the truth of the matter is, I need to be willing to start somewhere and stick with it if I am ever going to be successful.
As part of my plan to restart my writing, I created a set of rules to get myself back on track. These rules are basic rules that have been very helpful to me in starting and continuing my journey:
• Read more. You can get a sense of different styles and learn things that work and don’t work.
• Keep a journal. This is a good way to get your ideas and emotions down on paper while also identifying possible issues in your writing.
• Brainstorm. Take the time to explore different possibilities and get them down on paper.
• Outline & Organize. This way, you can keep track of how your story is progressing.
• Revise, Re-Read, and Edit. This is self-explanatory.
• Seek out advice and criticism. Always welcome feedback and tips from others and don’t take criticism personally. All criticism isn’t meant to hurt you and can be very helpful. Seeing things from an outside perspective will help to improve your work.
I don’t think writing is easy at all. It’s tough, messy, and can leave you feeling defeated. But your willingness to persevere through self-doubt and criticism is what’s going to make it amazing.