Why Do Writers Hate Writing?

I was listening to “Need To Know” the other day, and I was slightly horrified to hear both Mona Charen and Jay Nordlinger announce that they dislike writing. In fact, they went so far as to suggest that almost nobody likes to write, except for George Will, who is strange.

Seriously? The world is full of professional writers who don’t like to write? I can’t understand this. I mean, I was familiar with the “I like having written” quote, which I have at various times heard attributed …

  1. The King Prawn

    Great questions! I do enjoy writing, but I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much if my dinner depended on it. There is something about demands and deadlines that can deflate almost any activity. Perhaps some of the more professional writers here could enlighten us.

  2. Ryan M

    I can kind of understand the sentiment.  I really enjoy writing, sort of… it is incredibly frustrating to try to get your thoughts out in a way that is coherent and readable.  Trying to write for publication is even worse.  If I write something for ricochet, I’m looking at a few drafts; I imagine if anything were to get published, it would be another several drafts later.  You have to cut out things you like, and you have to rack your brain to phrase and rephrase in order to make sense.  I always say there is nothing I’d love to do more than write for a living, but I also think it would carry all of the same job frustrations as anything else.

  3. Ryan M

    … not to mention the unfortunate reality that sometimes when you write something that you really like, nobody reads it.  Then you spout off some off-the-cuff nonsense and everybody seems to notice.

  4. Songwriter

    I can identify. I’ve made my living for 30+ years writing music – much of it to meet the demands of a client. Not that all writing for hire is a chore, but it’s generally more fun to write what is on one’s heart, without thought of paying the bills. Deadlines, fussy clients, and, frankly, sheer repetition (we get hired to write more of what we’ve successfully written in the past) can suck some of the joy out of the process.

    That said, I realize I’m a very lucky guy to get paid to do what I would probably do for free, otherwise.

  5. The King Prawn
    Ryan M: … not to mention the unfortunate reality that sometimes when you write something that you really like, nobody reads it.  Then you spout off some off-the-cuff nonsense and everybody seems to notice. · 5 minutes ago

    Some of us have a special skill in that respect.

    As for brain racking trying to get things right, I have a secret weapon: thesaurus.com. If I’m writing anything bigger than a comment I usually have it open on a browser tab. Repeating words drives me crazy (OCD?), so having a handy reference to rephrase is a must.

  6. sawatdeeka

    Rachel, William Zinsser of On Writing Well insists that good writing is hard and lonely work. 

    But I notice that the writing attempts hardest and loneliest for me often end up the lamest. 

  7. ConservativeWanderer

    Rachel, how’d you like to try an experiment with me? Before I lay out the experiment, allow me to state right up front that I mean this in good faith, as a way for you to better understand the question you’re asking.

    I’ll give you a spot on my blog. In order to accurately represent what I try to do on as a blogger and a writer, you’ll need to do at least 3 short pieces a day, and one article-length (around 700 words) piece a week. Admittedly, I’ve fallen short of that a time or two, but that’s always my goal.

    The work has to be of good quality, and I’ll be serving as editor, giving you advice on where you could improve, as well as where you do well.

    After a few weeks of that regimen, I think you’ll understand better why writing is sometimes quite a chore.

    Note, however, that I still do it… mostly because I can’t not write. It’s just something built into me, I guess.

  8. Umbra Fractus

    The “I like having written” sentiment applies to most careers. “My job is tedious, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished,” could be said by any professional, not just writers.

  9. Diane Ellis
    C

    I recently got my first paid writing gig, and it was an order for 8 essays on a fun theme. The deadline has come and gone, and I’m three essays short of completing the order. 

    I’m finding it really difficult to write good, enjoyable pieces on demand because I feel like a louse churning out something that’s already been said —and said much better.  So I feel the compulsion to wait until I’ve thought of something new and fresh and fascinating.  Problem is that I have no control over my muse.  She comes and goes as she pleases.

    I really identify with what Troy says in his comment above.

  10. Rachel Lu
    C

    For Troy and CW: I used to blog, actually, and that to me was the epitome of “fun writing”. I did feel pressure to produce content, it’s true. But there was so much freedom, and there was also the immediate gratification of reader response, which felt great. Then on the other side was my dissertation, which promised no such payoff in short term or long. It was easy to say which was more pleasurable. Nevertheless, after my first child was born, I quickly realized I would have to choose between blog and dissertation… and I picked the latter. I like to finish what I start. One great thing about being a dissertating parent, though, was that I became very good at writing in my head even when my hands weren’t free. I’d compose a passage mentally, then eventually I’d get to a keyboard and type it all out in a whirlwind. That’s how most of my Ricochet posts get written now. You can see why I have trouble sympathizing with people who whine about feeling chained to their computer.

  11. Sabrdance

    As an academic, I find the writing to the hardest part of the process.  Reading is fun.  Number-crunching is fun.  Data collection is boring, but not hard (and to the extent it is hard, it is not boring).  But putting it in words can be infuriating.  I have all this awesome stuff to tell you about -why can you not just get it by osmossis!?  I have to use these cumbersome and inadequate words to express concepts and discoveries you -by their very nature -have never even contemplated!

    Charts and graphs and tables are a beautiful thing.

    But the worst part -the absolute worst part -once I’ve finally beaten and torqued the words into something approximating what I’m trying to say, I have to edit.  It was impossible to jerryrig this language to communicate the ideas, and now I have to remove this piece here, and trim that piece there, and polish that rivet and clip this wire.  The whole thing is just going to fall apart any second now, I can feel it.

    But then it reaches it’s approximate final form, and it shows what I want it to show, and it’s beautiful.

  12. ConservativeWanderer
    Rachel Lu:  You can see why I have trouble sympathizing with people who whine about feeling chained to their computer. · 7 minutes ago

    Excuse me? Whine?

    I’m sure you can come up with a better way to say that.

  13. Sabrdance

    As an amateur novelist, the problem is the reverse.  I have this story in my mind, but how can I get it on the page?  What do I need to show here, and there, and how do they get from the first page to the second page, and why is there a talking cow dragging the sleigh across the troll bridge…

    OK, perhaps that was oversharing.  But there is so much, how can I ever get it all out?

    But once there is a draft, the editing becomes a joy in itself.  The body is there, the art is there, now I just have to apply the paint to make it look like I imagined it.

  14. dash

    All of  the above.

    And when you find yourself writing about writing, the cold sweat really kicks in.

  15. Edward Dentzel

    As a writer who’s typed about 600,000 words over the last two and a half years churning out mostly fiction but some non-fiction as well, I love to write. Granted, I’ve decided to do it full-time, so I don’t have to find time to squeeze it in between “real job” duties which, having done that for a while, can wear a person out. I love sitting down at the computer knowing I’m creating something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. Maybe it’ll be good. Maybe it’ll be bad. But it’ll be unique and it’ll be mine.

    The problem I would have being a writer is if I had a blog where I felt compelled to turn out material every few hours, every day, seven days a week. I feel for those types because I think it would get monotonous, with creativity being the first casualty. And, not to my surprise, that’s why I find most political blogs pretty ordinary–they’re a bunch of people saying the same thing just about every day.

    But, Ricochet is different. That’s why I’m here.   

  16. DanaWheels

    It takes discipline to sit down and write… something I’m lacking in… I have a blog that somtimes goes MONTHS without an entry, even though there are things going on that I could write about… I mean, I post to Facebook fairly regularly, and I could easily extend the posting to a blog entry. I just have to discipline myself to do it. I envy CW the way he’s been able to do that and I applaud him. 

  17. Steven M.

    I think there is a difference between writing and creating. 

    Creating is a lot of fun. Coming up with characters and ideas is really where my enjoyment rests. 

    Getting across those ideas in written form is a lot less fun. I sometimes hate aspects of it. I hate not being able to write quality prose fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. I hate writing something awful just to get past a roadblock, knowing that I will need to change it later. The physical act of writing is the “Work” part of it, and it’s sometimes hard to do.

    However, it is also compulsive. There is no satisfaction like being finished with a story.

    When I say I hate writing, I say it in the same way that I do when I am about to attempt a really difficult work out. You kind of hate it, but you love it too. You say you “hate it” as an attempt to laugh at the challenge ahead of you. 

    Like others have said, it’s the good kind of hard. 

  18. Ryan M
    The King Prawn

    Ryan M: … not to mention the unfortunate reality that sometimes when you write something that you really like, nobody reads it.  Then you spout off some off-the-cuff nonsense and everybody seems to notice. · 5 minutes ago

    Some of us have a special skill in that respect.

    As for brain racking trying to get things right, I have a secret weapon: thesaurus.com. If I’m writing anything bigger than a comment I usually have it open on a browser tab. Repeating words drives me crazy (OCD?), so having a handy reference to rephrase is a must. · 1 hour ago

    I share that compulsion.  But I don’t think it is a bad thing.  When I write an essay, I read it 6 or 7 times before hitting “post,” and changes are made each time.  That’s why I say it would be really frustrating to have to write publish-quality stuff; you’re looking at full rewrites, I think.  But don’t get a thesaurus – just cancel the cable and read more.  ;)   (sounds pretentious, I know)

  19. Brian Clendinen

    Considering I am not a very good writer and growing up I hated to write I can relate.  It usually takes me twice the time to write something than it does my colleagues.

     

     I think striving to be a good communicator is work no matter your skill and the medium from writing, to speeches, commercials, Numbers, dancing, music ect. If your goal is to effetely communicate a specific message to a broader audience well then it is going to take effort.

    No matter how much one enjoys one work it still feels well like work.

  20. Joseph Eagar

    I get the impression good writing is like good music composition: if you have a source of inspiration the piece almost writes itself, but otherwise you have to really struggle to get something good.

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