When I was younger, I thought the toe-curling reaction I had to a few hours of writing time stretching out before me made me abnormal. Either I had confused what I thought was a feverish passion for writing with some other fever – a delusional one, perhaps – or I didn’t have the chops to make it as a writer. In fact, I hate to admit this, but the truth is that I avoided writing for many, many years because I was sure that my desire to run quickly out of the room with my tail between my legs every time I faced a blank page was a sign that I had no hope of growing into the writer I so wanted to be.
I’ve since learned that (almost) all writers hate writing. Bear with me here. I’m not saying that all writers hate all writing all the time, or that writers are mentally and/or emotionally challenged individuals who compulsively indulge in self-destructive behavior just for kicks (though that has been said before, unfortunately, since it’s such a gross misinterpretation of authorial behavior). But I have learned that almost every writer I know experiences an excruciating amount of unwillingness to just sit down and write. Even writers I don’t know own up to this. Amy Tan has a wonderful story in her memoirs about getting stranded in a cabin after a flash flood – when a rescue team finally arrived, all she could think was that if she got out of there, she’d have to finish her novel. Ann Patchett also says that she would frequently rather do almost anything but write, even though she has known since she was a very small child that she would be a writer, and has pursued her craft to great success ever since.
So why do writers hate writing? I want to know your thoughts, but I have a few theories of my own. First, I think many writers are perfectionists, because a writer must be incredibly driven and incredibly detail oriented in order to wrassle (not a misspelling: think alligators and jello pits) her thoughts down into the medium of language. This perfectionism does not, however, prove very helpful when one needs to step into a creative space that courts risk and the unknown. So there’s that (which I’ve written about extensively already), but I think I’m ready to expand on that theory. I think another reason why so many writers hate writing is because AT FIRST – and this is critical, since the rewards of a writing practice are too numerous to begin to list — writing demands so much, yet it promises so little in return.
Again, a moment to clarify: the act of writing can be thrilling and centering and inspiring, all at once. But more often than not, it’s just a slog, and the more you write, the more slogging you must do. Moreover, you must come into the slogosphere with your most heightened sensitivities tuned to their highest frequencies, and you must keep your heart open and either leave your assumptions and baggage at the door or find a way to authentically shape them into something that doesn’t resemble the tear-and-ink-stained rant of a diary you kept under your bed when you were fourteen. In other words, most of the time, writing feels a bit like working up the courage to share the contents of your heart with the crush of your life who has barely ever noticed you, or, I don’t know, showing up to middle school naked.
No matter what answer we come up with, though, I will say that I think it’s pretty amazing that writers write anyway. I think it takes real courage to enter the lion’s den with nothing more than a magic wand with iffy batteries. I like that in a person, and I try to remember that when I get hard on myself about avoiding my writing. It’s not always about how well you do what you do; I think it’s also about how well you manage to keep your head held high even when you’re constantly tripping.
Painfully honest. Thank you for this. I am inspired to get back to my essay!
Blair Sorrel says
Readers evolve into writers. Reading is less labor intensive than writing. Writing involves comparison, favorable or not, to more seasoned authors engendering insecurities about how much better or faster a favored scribbler might have treated the novice’s topic. Families of writers may undermine the determination of a gifted wordsmith for well-meaning, pragmatic reasons. Greater chance of success comparing yourself to yourself. Your labor of questionable love will materialize with less angst and greater alacrity by inking rather than overthinking.
Juzaila Jumari says
High five! I am a childrens book author and educator too! I just love that you wrote this because I am a writer who hates writing. It is a weird complex. I love reading and I like writing for the creative expression but I just hated the process of writing. People who says they love writing and then writes well, gosh I get so jealous.
Elizabeth Percer says
I hear you, Juzaila!
I’m an author with a few books published and I HATE WRITING!
What I love is creating stories. I can sit on the couch and write books in my head all day every day until the couch becomes molded to my ample ass and I forget how to walk.
But writing, mein gott. I’d rather chew glass and gargle with salt water. I will find any distraction available to escape it… like right now, googling “writers who hate writing” instead of working on the book I’m just a few days away from finishing.
Is it because my ass gets numb from my crappy office chair that one wheel keeps popping off of? Or because my dog keeps pestering me, breaking my concentration? Maybe because when my husband gets home he will do the adult male version of a grocery store toddler yelling “MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM” in hopes of getting some sugary cereal. Except in his case, he’s hoping for a booty call. Could it be my 50 year old nearsighted vision that says I sit too close to the computer to read it with my glasses but too far away to read it without? Or maybe it’s this damned mobile app game I keep wanting to check to see if my daily quests are finally completed.
Who knows. All I know is that I love crafting stories, but the act of writing them down goes on the same “Let’s Just Not” list as jumping out of airplanes, licking public toilet seats during a pandemic, and calling my dad.
Elizabeth Percer says
Sera, I can’t wait to read that book you’re finishing! 😉
Ha! The above comment really made me laugh, as I too discovered this post whilst googling ‘writers who hate writing’ – all so I can avoid… writing.
I think your observations are absolutely spot on. Good writing is typically the result of a lot of very bad writing and rewriting. Agonising mediocrity. ‘Why do I think I can remotely do this? Giiiive up!!!’
The only way I am keeping myself going right now is by making myself accountable to a monthly meeting to share and discuss our writing with a good friend of mine.
I watched Fran Lebowitz on the Netflix documentary, ‘Pretend It’s A City’ last night. She said (as only she would) that only bad writers love writing. I am taking some solace in that!