Why Writing Gets Harder
As I labor to revise practically every paragraph of a recent proposal (after rewriting from scratch and then sending off another) I asked myself the same question novelists have been whining since Gutenberg:
When does this %$@#! get easier?
Here's the bad news. I see no sign it ever does.
For the past ten years, I've spent the bulk of my time writing. I've seen fifteen books published and seventeen contracted. Yet I often look back fondly on the days when I was scrambling to squeeze twenty minutes or an hour out of days packed with full-time (plus, if you count the many hours a week spent grading papers) teaching, marriage, and motherhood, days when every time I sat down at my computer, the story spilled out in what seemed like an effortless torrent.
In those halcyon days, it was all about the story and not about the craft. I didn't have time or space enough in my life for worries about reviews, rejection, and sales numbers. I didn't have to care about whether checks showed up late or ever, because I wasn't counting on them.
I do remember wanting "in the club" with an intensity so keen it was painful and the terrible frustration of hovering at the "almost" level for so long. But publishing was the big goal, and I didn't stop to differentiate between starvation-wage, lower-echelon publication and the big-time. I didn't spend much time worrying about advances, royalty rates, or book awards. I just wanted my shot.
And that's all as it should be.
As one crosses over to become a professional, however, the concerns change, the bar rises, and all of this tends to make writing harder instead of easier. What we've learned impinges on the act, and if we're not careful, on the joy of our endeavor.
But here's the good news. Once the writer accepts the inherent challenges as part of the attraction and comes to grip with the constancy of struggle, she can embrace the work itself, in all humility. She can look back at her progress, and based on her own history, take heart in the knowledge that she's faced tough roads in the past and overcome them, that she's slogged through the mire to achieve (however modestly) her goals.
She can tell herself: I've done it before, I can do it again. And this time, I'm taking everything I've learned and using it to make this book a little better.
That's what keeps us going. That's what makes us strong.
So what about the rest of you? What aspects of writing do you find getting tougher? Which come easier?