Writing: Not that easy

There seems to be a pretty popular misconception — not just limited to the internet, by the way — that writing is somehow “easy” to do.

Good ideas, and good writing, do not just spring fully-formed like Athena from the mind of Zeus. Like many things worth doing, writing is a process. I used to be a writing tutor for undergrad students, and one of the things that countless students expressed to me was their shock that writing was hard work, and that most of the time, one could not “just” write a paper in a single sitting and expect to get a perfect grade.

I cannot tell you how many times I have written half-drafts of papers, or opinion pieces, or short essays, or blog posts, and either ended up doing away with them altogether or substantially changing them multiple times. Most of the writing of which I am most proud — not all of which I have posted online — has taken quite a bit of time, research, and energy to put together. I write things down in a notebook most of the time as part of my working-through-ideas “process” (if you want to call it that), but often these scribblings do not at all resemble the final product. Hell, I have bits sitting in my blog queue that are in constant need of expansion or revision; though I tend to complete pieces once I start them, there are times when I just cannot find a good ending for certain pieces, and they end up sitting around unused for weeks or months.

On occasion, I don’t use posts or pieces at all, or post them. There are some pieces of writing that are beneficial for the writer, but I may have reservations about exposing them to an audience. Or I may have trouble saying what I actually want to say in plain and easily-understandable language — in the past, this has ended up saving me from posting some real crap and some not-even-half-baked ideas.

The fact that writing can be very difficult is not a personal failing. A large percentage of my former students seemed to think it was — that if their ideas did not emerge brilliantly and painlessly the first time, then these ideas were not worth expressing at all. Utilizing the written word is a skill, not an innate talent. There is no formula for a “great” piece of writing, or post, or essay. If someone finds hirself sitting and trying, straining to write, grumbling, “Why is this so hard?” — well, that can be the nature of the process. It can be fickle, and it is almost never “easy” in the traditional sense.

[Originally posted on my Tumblr.]

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3 thoughts on “Writing: Not that easy

  1. K says:

    It takes me hours – days – weeks – to finish writing some blog posts.
    They’re blog posts. They’re supposed to get cranked out. Don’t spend too much time on it.

    Why am I spending so much time on this one post that so few will ever see. How did this other post get to be 5,000 words. I need to cut something out. But everything in there right now is pretty good, what gets cut out or condensed?

    Wait I think I saw something else somewheres that’s relevant to what I’m trying to discuss, where did it go.
    That’s the part I hate the most; knowing that I saw something somewheres that I can use to relate a point… and then having to go digging for it.
    Because sometimes I can’t find it again. And if I try to say something without an example no one will believe me.

  2. garlandgrey says:

    FIST PUMP – This post is completely composed of WIN.

    “I cannot tell you how many times I have written half-drafts of papers, or opinion pieces, or short essays, or blog posts, and either ended up doing away with them altogether or substantially changing them multiple times. Most of the writing of which I am most proud — not all of which I have posted online — has taken quite a bit of time, research, and energy to put together.”

    YES.

  3. Kathy says:

    Thank you for saying this. I just posted something about writing not being fun for me, but rewarding. I saw this analogy a long time ago, in a now-forgotten magazine, and I think it may have been about professional dancers, but it applies to writing to: when you see a duck on the water, it looks so serene floating on the top, but what you don’t see is all the work its feet are doing underneath the water. (Something like that. I’m paraphrasing, obviously.)

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