Writers Hate Writing. Really?

I guess it used to be hard to write a novel, scribbling across the parchment with your quill, fretting every time you make a mistake, blotting the ink… Even a young 50-year-old like me wonders how he ever typed college papers … remember Tippex anyone (I believe it was called White Out here in the colonies)?

So now everyone’s a writer. I get it. But what I don’t understand is the complaining about writing. I opened a Writer’s Digest this weekend, an old one from the end of 2012, and it was full of articles on Writer’s Block, discipline, and how we need to force ourselves to write.

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In the space of 24 hours, I was interviewed by a high school student who kept asking about writer’s block, discipline, and how I maintain my focus; then I was invited to speak at a workshop on Writer’s Block.

In the aforementioned issue of Writer’s Digest, there are articles and a hilarious graph (way to go Zachery Petit) on doing everything but writing. One article is about overcoming writer’s block without willpower, another has you spending an hour or so writing and the rest of the day doing all kinds of wonderful “author” things like visiting bookstores and doing field research. There is an article about extreme measures authors took to keep their “butt in the seat,” including Frank Burrows who would chain himself to a chair and drink lots of Tab (a soda that is pretty torturous in itself) so that his bladder was bursting, I assume.

William Styron is quoted as saying: “I certainly don’t enjoy writing. I get a fine warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it: Writing is hell.”

The author of the article continues: “I get it. I get why writers hate writing.”

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I don’t! I really don’t! If you don’t enjoy writing don’t do it. There are things we all have to do: taxes, flossing, cleaning the bathroom, but not writing. Sure there are hard times: when the plot doesn’t work, or when your heroine does something out-of-character, but to hate writing?

I LOVE writing. I can’t wait to fire up my laptop and pound the keys. When I am not writing, I become frustrated and (according to my family) pretty darn annoying. I LOVE the thrill of the unknown plot twist. I CRAVE the company of my characters, and I RIDE the adrenaline rush of the scenes unfolding under my fingertips.

When a beloved character fails or dies, I cry. When battle is joined, I apparently mumble and wince out loud as people are wounded or killed. I have never learned how to type properly (touch typing?), but my fingers fly across the keyboard as I get increasingly excited. Sure there are many squiggly red and green lines, but I can worry about that later.

When I finish a novel, the first thing I want to do is celebrate. The second thing is to start the next book. In my own fantasy world, I would just write the novels. Others would edit, market and do all the other ‘stuff’ that authors need to do these days. I just wanna write.

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I don’t mean nothing else. I love my day job and feel I am, as Steve Jobs expressed: ‘helping to put a dent in the world.’ I love my family and am truly blessed to have a soul mate who tolerates me with all my quirks. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

The high school student asked at the end of our interview:” “When do you know you are a writer?” I answered that it’s when you never leave the story, even when you are doing something else. It’s when you crave returning to the computer and when you take immense pride in the story unfolding.

That is my answer. Every author probably has something different to offer and I am sure they are all right. But I hate writing just doesn’t make any sense.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree,  and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

 

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6 comments on “Writers Hate Writing. Really?

  1. Sunshine Jansen says:

    Thank you for saying this! Seriously, the only thing I have ever hated about writing is that I have to occasionally stop it to go to work or sleep or nourish myself. Also, I’m gratified that someone else out there is excited by unknown plot twists; my outlines are incredibly vague for just this reason! There’s nothing like experiencing the character’s reactions to the stuff we throw at them first-hand…

  2. I completely agree with you, Alon! I love writing, too. It’s hard work, yes, but not everything we enjoy in life is meant to be easy. And that’s OK. If everything was easy in life, we wouldn’t feel as much incentive to strive for it, right? 🙂

    “I answered that it’s when you never leave the story, even when you are doing something else. It’s when you crave returning to the computer and when you take immense pride in the story unfolding.”

    Yes. This. It’s exactly how I feel right now. I’m taking a brief break from my own novel before launching into Draft 2 revisions, yet my subconscious hasn’t left it. Just this weekend, I came up with something new for the story – a relatively small detail compared to other, bigger things, but it got me excited about the book again. I can’t wait to start revising the novel, even if some of the revisions will be difficult and frustrating. I just can’t imagine doing anything else sometimes.

  3. livingforweekends says:

    I had that attitude for too long – writing was such a chore, I never enjoyed it, I had a true bad attitude. I finally realized that my biggest problem was I simply no longer enjoyed what I was writing – I was in the wrong genre for the now-me, even though I could sell pretty easily to my publisher. I switched to YA Fantasy, started completely over, and took back the joy of writing. I also decided to stop writing for someone else aka the publisher, and what they wanted. I started to write for myself, turned writing back into hobby-fun mode, at least in my head, and that did the trick. 🙂

  4. june says:

    Hate writing!! That’s absurd…why write then, it makes no sense to me?

    I TOTALLY get that thing about thinking about the plot during other tasks through out my day and becoming anxious to get to my desk to put it all down…and when the story leads me sometimes, and I decide to follow it and see where it goes, and it turns out to be way better than where I had originally planned…ahh….now that’s the juice! Writing feeds a part of me that nothing else does…and apparently it does the same for you…well done!

  5. Alex Kourvo says:

    Thanks for this. It’s a wonderful antidote to all those “writing is so hard!” articles and books out there.

    Yes, writing is hard work. But it’s joyful, meaningful work that is a heck of a lot of fun!

  6. Yes! All this. The only thing I hate about the writing process is the G’damned editing and marketing. Now THAT frustrates me to no end and makes me want to pull my hair out. It takes me away from my writing. I just want to write the story and explore the worlds that are being created. I am a pantzer and that means that writing the story excites me even more – it’s like reading a book (a close second love to writing)… Writing like this invigorates me and inspires me to write more.
    I don’t hate writing. I hate not being able to write more!

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