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?


Suzan Harden said…
Thanks, Colleen, for the laugh at the picture of that poor donkey and for saying what I needed to hear today.
Colleen: What you said. Everything you said.

I think for me, it's the heightened expectations of the outside world that's the most difficult to deal with. I have to make myself shut out everything and concentrate on the story itself. For example, I'm revising a book right now, certain I'll never be able to make it any good!

I'm nearly at forty novels and novellas, and it's not gotten any easier. I'm sure everyone wants to hear that, LOL.

The good thing is--making myself sit down and write has gotten much, much easier. It's now a habit, and my day feels weird if I don't write at least 1000 words.
Nancy J. Parra said…
Great post- so true! And even better, thanks for the pic. It made my day. Cheers!
Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words.

Jenn, I can't wait to get back to moving forward to this story. Right now, I'm using the scalpel - just cutting away. But for me, that's where the story finds its form.
Pamala Knight said…
Oh Colleen! You've summed up the experience so succinctly that I have absolutely nothing to add. I'm lucky that the CFD keeps me fed and sheltered while I'm pursuing my dreams of publication.

Strangely, It soothes me to know that the writing doesn't get any easier. There's some comfort in knowing that every time you sit down with pen and paper or at your computer, that it will be as intense and laborious as the first time but hopefully also as rewarding. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Thanks again for the excellent post.
It would get boring if it became too easy. But the occasional effortless day would go amiss! LOL.

I could use one right now.

Thanks for dropping by.
Misty Evans said…
Colleen, what great advice! Today I find myself needing to accept the struggle as part of the process and not let it be a thorn in my side. The joy for me comes in the writing, not the marketing or reviews or sales. I need to get back to my story and forget the rest for awhile!

Awesome post!

Depending on the responses I get back (if any) from the literary agents I've recently queried, I might just be feeling like that donkey, suspended in mid-air.

Writing isn't easy, but I can't see myself giving it up!
As long as our little legs keep moving, we're still in the game (even when we're not really getting anywhere at the moment).

Thanks for the kind words!

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