Why Does Writing Have to Seem So Hard?

April 8, 2015

old typewriterOld Typewriter – photo courtesy Pixabay

When you’re having a difficult time writing and the words you want just don’t seem to find their way out of your head, you sometimes ask yourself … what’s the point?

I thought I was past my momentary writers block … but after only 1,500-or-so words I got stuck again this week.

No problem, right? I’ve been there before and worked my way out of it. The words eventually start flowing again.

So, I brewed a second cup of coffee, took a deep breath and stared at my computer screen. Typed a sentence. Deleted it.

Sipped my coffee. Wrote a new sentence and almost immediately deleted it. Paused. Rubbed my eyes. Scratched my head. Typed a third sentence. Deleted that one, too.

Repeated the whole sequence many times in the course of the next two hours and got some results I kept … a total of 27 words.

Less than one-quarter of a word per minute. Oh well. Been there, done that. I know it will eventually click. I just hope it does before my self-imposed deadline gets here.

At least I’m more environmentally conscious these days. I used to do all this using reams of paper.

Writing, ripping sheets from the platen and tossing crumpled paper pages from an old Royal or Smith-Corona until the wastebasket overflowed and threatened to engulf the room.

Royal? Smith-Corona?

You know, one of those tools youngsters only see these days in retro films (or in their grandparents’ closets). A typewriter.

Now I use a laptop. No paper waste, but the writer’s block is still writer’s block.

Sigh.

Most days, my desk is the kitchen table. I sit there (fortunately close to the coffee) pattering out whatever thoughts come into my head. Sometimes they actually coalesce in the form of a story.

Other times they’re solipsistic, self-centered ramblings that don’t make sense later even to me.

But when my thoughts fail to come together over a story it often feels like my characters all suddenly seem flawed and unlikable. Or sometimes not flawed enough.

At the same time, my story doesn’t seem to go anywhere … or it goes in too many directions at once.

If you self-publish, like I do, even when the words do come you can’t take it easy. There are so many other things you have to worry about.

Getting reviews. Managing your web site. Connecting with other writers. Maintaining a blog. Connecting with other readers. Posting Facebook messages. Crafting clever Twitter messages. Creating Goodreads giveaways. Designing business cards.

Building refrigerator magnets with my name on them (I don’t really do that … I just wanted to see if you were listening).

Not to mention trying to sell copies of the books I’ve written. That I do all the time.

Those are the times I’m most likely to ask myself … what the hell’s the point? Why do I work so hard at this blasted thing called writing? After all, I had a long career and retired. I’m supposed to relax and take it easy. Right?

Instead, I keep showing up, even with all my doubt, despair and anxiety over words that continue to seem slippery and elusive.

Sometimes getting the words right feels like I’m trying to push the Earth out of its orbit. Yet, I keep working at it. I bring it all to the page and keep pushing.

Why?

In all honesty, I don’t have any alternative. I’m a writer, so I show up and write … and hope for the best.

 

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My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

 
Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.
 

What’s the Main Task of a Storyteller?

March 27, 2015

punta canaThe Reserve Beach in Punta Cana © R.L. Herron

I recently came back from Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic (I know … tough duty, but someone’s got to do it).

My bride and I met our eldest son and his family there for a week. I enjoyed seeing them all and relished the opportunity it gave me to recharge my batteries. Now, back to business.

In my last post you heard me grouse again about my writer’s block. It’s safe to say most of that has passed. But I’m still struggling to get my latest novel written and edited by the end of May.

Why? Because I want to submit it to this year’s Readers Favorite contest for review.

Why Do I Bother?
I watched the movie “Birdman” here at home on Tuesday with my wife and youngest son.

Michael Keaton plays a former movie star/action-hero (Birdman) named Riggin Thomas, who opted out of the franchise and hasn’t had much movie success since.

The Thomas character has supposedly adapted the Raymond Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” for Broadway; writing and directing the play in the hopes it will revitalize his career.

One of my favorite scenes featured Edward Norton, who plays an actor named Michael Shiner, a not-so-very-likable-character. In this scene he defends Thomas to Tabitha Dickinsen (played by Lindsay Duncan), a smarmy theater critic he sees sitting in a bar.

“He’s taking a chance. He’s willing to lose everything for this. What are you willing to lose?”

I think Tabitha, a character name undoubtedly chosen for its witch-like associations, serves a twin narrative purpose.

The first is to serve as a convenient antagonist. Her character has apparently decided in advance to give the play a lousy review, so she embodies evil incarnate.

The second is to highlight the purpose real critics have served for as long as there has been a creative process: the need for validation. It’s something the Michael Keaton character desperately needs to preserve his own creative sanity.

It makes me wonder why any of us bother to create art, when we know there are people who will line up to tell us what we’re doing wrong. Does, as the movie suggests, fame or recognition play a role in the process?

Taking that a step further, do I write for the contest entry? Is that why I’m finding myself in a time crunch? It’s not like I’m making much money at it.

Why Do We Write?
George Orwell once said we write out of the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, and to be remembered after death.”

While this might not be the most unselfish of motivations, it’s certainly a natural one.

Humans, for the most part, have a built-in need to make a mark on the world. We want to bring new things to life, to mold things into the image we have in our imaginations.

That makes the answers to the question … Why Do You Write? … as varied as the people asking it.

A writer expresses the rambling of his imagination, but he tries to do it in a way that lets you see it, too. This has always been the main task of storytellers and it’s why, every time we write, we leave a little bit of ourselves behind.

And, yes, we do it for the acknowledgement of the critics. It’s how we know we’re alive.

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My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

 
Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.
 


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