Thursday, May 22, 2014

Writing is Hard Work

To be a hard-working writer means not only to produce, but to improve.

For many people, trying to find the time to sit down and write a thousand words is a challenge. If you have a demanding job, if you have children, if you travel… We can each list some very reasonable things that keep us from finding the time.

Other times, excuses keep us from writing. Favourite TV shows, the weather is too nice, or the soul-sucking internet. (*Waves at you as you read this on the internet.*) We all need some down-time, right?

So what turns someone into a writer? The absolute NEED to write. That drive, that all-encompassing desire to get the idea down, trumps all other activities.

If you want to know how that energy feels, start an argument with someone online. (Because someone on the internet is wrong.) You can’t walk away, you have to make your point, your words have to be seen, you, you… HAVE TO settle this! And then an hour or two zips by. You get caught up, you have been completely engrossed, and the laundry is still sitting there. That’s what it feels like.

If you are someone who has to write and cannot escape it, you already know what I’m talking about. You get up early in the morning or stay up into the wee hours, you write at lunch, or while you eat dinner – however you make it happen, you put your ass in the chair and write like the wind.

And that’s awesome.

But you don’t want to spend the next ten years of your life writing crap. Although it might feel like waves of genius flowing forth from your muse, chances are, you were not born an award-winning author. You need to keep improving.

That’s when it gets hard.

I don’t mean just reading every book on the planet. And not only, “I got another rejection, but I’ve got a thick skin.” And I don’t mean that writing is a lonely, self-doubting activity. Those are all hard indeed, but not what I want to focus on today.

I’ve said it before and I will keep repeating, “The whole world needs an editor.” Even the best writers need a second set of eyes. Smart eyes. Not someone who loves you and adores that you write, eyes. A person who knows how to properly edit your work is priceless.

But you know that old saying about teaching a man to fish?

If you are making errors with comma placements (for example), you have a choice. You can fix the commas the editor pointed out to you in this one particular manuscript, or you can go and learn about correct comma usage. You’ve got some problems with dialogue? Don’t just fix what they circled for you. Go and study, not just by reading books that have dialogue, but study how to write effective dialogue. Some people take classes, workshops, or find lessons online, but you have to find your own training.

And I’m not going to give them to you. No list of sources, nothing to reference, no starting point. I don’t know what you need.

They are your problems to fix. Not your editor’s. The editor is there to tell you which fish you need, they’re not going to catch it for you. If you’re lucky, they might point you in the right direction. But the really hard work? That’s all yours.

So “writing” isn’t always about word count and your fingers flying across the keyboard. It’s not only coming up with the best ideas to ever rock the world. Sometimes it’s about soaking in a whole new lesson that will improve your work, and make your future projects more successful.


  1. It's always a scary thought to consider that writing is the easy part. Improving, honing, crafting and all of the things that go into making a story ready for the world to see, it's like moving a bloody mountain. Thankfully, there are SO MANY resources for improvement. :)

    1. There are, and easier than going to the Library or taking a class - although sometimes I think taking a class would be far more succinct. But again, taking time to learn, and write, and read more all while the rest of life happens can be very difficult to balance. Mountains beware! LOL!

  2. Learn a skill. Implement it. Repeat.

    That's why first drafts are easier than the 10+ editing passes when you apply all you've learned.

    1. I think it's why my first drafts are getting better as I go along, too. Jeez, I'd hope. :P