Why does it always have to be hard?

The past few months I have been reading a lot on writing - everything from how to write, how to get published, even how to do book binding.

The most recurrent theme is how hard it is to be a writer. There are always wonderful quotes like:

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." - Walter Smith

"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." -Gene Fowler

Holly Lisle, an author (someone I have notread), has a pretty interesting web site filled with resources for writers and inspiration and support. However, in her free ebook, Mugging the Muse, she has this to say:

"Let me define the act of writing for you. As a writer, you're going to attempt to sell the products of your mind to a world that doesn't care right now whether you breathe or not. You're going to strip your soul naked and parade it in front of editors and agents, publishers … While you are reaching out to editors, agents and publishers, you're going to fail. Over and over and over again, you are going to send things out and they are going to come back with impersonal rejection notices, with no notices at all, with the occasional signed memo that “This isn't for us.” You are going to stare at your words and sit in a darkened room and wonder, “What the hell is the matter with me?” You are going to take the rejections personally, are going to hurt, are going to bleed. Agents will turn you down, editors will turn you down, places that don't even pay for stories will turn you down."

The book reads well, but those introductory paragraphs are sure to turn away many who aspire to see their words published and shared with others (granted, blogging does remove many barriers for sharing words).

As mentioned, I have read a lot of books on writing and if you are interested here are my top choices:

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
- Noah Lukeman

This is definitely the best book. It gives practical and readable advice on writing from an editor. Just shy of 200 pages it is a good size (sorry, but I hate thick books - computer books are the worst, frequently weighing in over 1000 pages - how in the world am I supposed to keep up with that. Just give me the information. Thanks).

Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing, for Fiction and Nonfiction - Gary Provost (the observant longtime readers will remember I quoted him a while back).

This predates "The First Five Pages" and covers a few more topics. The advice in both books is similar, but since this one weighs in at over 300 pages it is slightly less recommendable.

I haven't read any other really good books on writing. Although, there was The Writer's Mentor, filled with collected quotes and authors' experiences - which run the gamut showing that every experience is unique.

Writing is one of the things I have always wanted to do in my life. Even signed up with NaNoWriMo last year (but dropped out because it wasn't my speed).

Why is everything always hard or complicated (I am not just picking on writing in this post)? I have a background in both electronics and computer science, but I would never say that these are hard. It requires constancy and sincere effort, but hard? No. (Note: this is not to say things just sail along smoothly. Ending up niched or obsolete is frightfully easy. Getting your foot in the door can be tough. Sometimes there are long hours and mad schedules, but I would never describe programming as staring at the monitor until blood drips out of your pores).


Pauline said…
Try out jane Yolen's book, TAKE JOY: A BOOK FOR WRITERS. It will make you feel a whole lot better about writing!
Richard said…
Thanks for commenting Pauline! I checked, my library does not have it (however, I did notice that Jane Yolen is very prolific).

I wasn't feeling particularily bad about writing, I was just musing why writers complain how hard it is. (I think those were 3 wonderful quotes, enough to discourage anyone).

But I can't deny a paralysis comes over me when I actually want to move stuff from my head to paper (or computer). Something inside me keeps saying, "It has got to be perfect and worthy of being written."
b said…
Richard...I share the paralysis you describe when it comes to writing, and I think many writers do.

I know...so many of those books about getting published can be discouraging. I have relegated myself to writing for myself, without thinking about getting published. And even then, I find that paralysis still creeps in.
Have you ever actually submitted anything to a publisher or literary agent? If not, see what happens. It's a time consuming, mostly disappointing and lengthy process, but totally worth it.
I have sent a lot of poetry writing to publishers and got mostly rejection slips but once Gage wanted me to sign for a future files consideration for a picture book on a poem/chant I wrote for Gr. 3 about going out fishing. I wrote it in 10 minutes! I was so excited and a few months later, that publisher closed down their kid's books section!! RATS!

Blogging's pretty good, though.
Richard said…
breal: a pretty horrible feeling. I am working on getting around to "just do it" as my mentality. I have some limited success at work, were I am able to simply push through. Harder in other parts of my life though. Tend to over analyze, over study.

run around paris: no, I have not. I have no idea where to begin. I sometimes wish I had a more "shoot first, aim later" type of mentality.

MOI: it is exciting to know you have been published. Sorry to hear about an opportunity being closed on you. I would love to know about your experiences in submitting. How you chose where to submit. How you psyched yourself up to go through with it.
ingrid said…
Writing groups are useful for taking a lot of the discouragement out of writing. I joined a writing group and what it did was showed me how many amazingly talented people there are in the world. That while getting published would be great, the forum of sharing writing in a small group was also marvelous.

The group I'm in is really supportive, and while offering suggestions for improvements doesn't make you feel totally deflated. (Part of this is the fact that I think the members are selected pretty carefully... no ranters and angry critics allowed.)

When we meet, the submissions are read anonymously, giving us a fake veil of protection.

Some of us are published... but that isn't really the point, just a perk. In the mean time, it has given all of us the courage to share our writing more easily, whether through traditional means (the publishing industry) or just in love to people around us.

Very freeing.
Richard said…
I see lots of talented people as I read blogs. There are an amazing number of literate, clever, thoughful and engaging bloggers out there. I often read other peoples blogs and think, "Gee, they are really expressive writers."

I might consider joining a writer's group or circle - just at the end of a day of work, the last thing I want to do is interact with people. My normal social skills and personability, which my rate a 3 out of 10 the best of times, drop to an abysmal 0.5 or so by the end of a work day.
I bought, "The Canadian Writer's Market" book. They put one out every year with all the names/addresses etc. of many publishers and give you hints at how to send in things and where yout type of writing should be sent. You have to send a general cover letter of what you are submitting. Some don't want you to end multiple submissions, but I don't know how they'd know. No one submits by e-mail. There are also several contests that you can send work to, sponsored by the Canadian Writer's Union and publishers. It's a place to start anyway. They told me I should start by submitting to magazines. Moat publishers already have their agenda (list of what they're going to publish)planned for the next 2 years and many don't accept unsolicited (by them, of course!) manuscripts. It is extremely difficult to get published, and as you've already observed, there is an awful lot of amazing talent out there, and that's just on blogs. Many "real" writer's don't blog, but have "real" websites. They'd consider blogs inferior, but I disagree.

It is alot of work and costs $ to mail in things. But, they mostly all reply to you (in about 3 weeks) and the odd one gives you some direction for your type of work. My best response/compliment was for the poem I did on the totem pole (blogged sometime not too long ago)where the head of the company, eritage Pub. said that, "We don't receive too many poems with such powerful imagery".
I kept that letter!!
Richard said…
MOI: I bought the "Canadian Writer's Market" book a few weeks ago along with the 2006 Children's "Writer's and Illustrators Market" book.

I also own the “1997 Writer's Market” book and have borrowed several other annual versions from the library (currently the 2006 version is at home). I also have several copies of Writers' Journal - they also sponsor writing contests.

One thing I have noticed is that women write the majority of articles in the magazines and books. I also noted article recycling by various authors. It is somewhat dismaying to pick up this months "Writers' Journal" and realize I have read one of the articles previously in another publication.
steve said…
I may be a little late here... very interesting story by Ayn Rand at the end of "For the New intellectual" called "The Easiest Thing in the World" that runs along these lines.
Richard said…
steve: it is never too late. I always read all my comments. Thanks for the book. I should point out, I did read Ayn Rand's novel Anthem about 9 months ago and found it wanting - there are many better books on that theme.

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