"Why is writing so much harder for me than it is for everybody else?" -- every novelist ever, secretly to themselves, all the time—
Lev Grossman (@leverus) April 28, 2015
I don’t think I could tell how many times I have sat down in front of a keyboard with the intention to write out a thought in detail and just stared blankly at the letters as if they were suddenly foreign to me. Nothing comes out. Nothing is moving but that damn blinking cursor on the screen.
Sometimes, when I’m really stuck on words, I’ll skip around visiting sites or reading blogs hoping to find that one word or phrase I need to get started. The thoughts are there but when it comes to getting them out it’s…it’s writer’s block. I’m writing this story offline, it’s the second time I’ve written it due to a hard drive crash. The crash was terrible; it took everything I had not to cry. My stories were not very good but they were not meant to be good. They were drafts. Some people write books 5 times before the author feels they are finished “enough” to present to the public (or even just one other person). Books are probably never really finished; I wouldn’t know because every time I’ve ever “finished” a story I knew they weren’t done. Maybe to accomplished authors it feels different but I can’t imagine a story in your head ever being done.
I think that is also my problem with writing: I have a hard time letting go. I tried to kill a character once, it was the knot that would hold the thread of the story in place. But then I started to feel bad and I couldn’t exit the character. That’s an entire person that would be gone. Forever. It kept dragging on and on because I couldn’t do it even though I knew that the rest of the story couldn’t happen without that death. I literally burned what I had written to get rid of it. I couldn’t even look at it. This is one of the best parts of writing on paper, you get to burn it if you really, really don’t like it.
I have these stories in my head that I’m struggling to get out. I’m not very educated, obviously, but it doesn’t stop the stories from building. I get stuck on the silliest things like when I notice there’s too many “he said,” “she said” and little description of how these things were said. I’ll notice a lot of people shrugging because I don’t know how else to describe indifferent or nonchalant without using the same words and phrases. Or when you randomly notice the last three paragraphs all started with the same word. …questioning if a chapter is too short. One time I Googled the average length of books. I was surprised to see I was in a healthy range…so far.
It’s difficult to support a consistency of character personality when you’re writing for the voice of so many people, too. I get annoyed when I’m going over a chapter I just finished and notice that I did not write this character with the attitude or behaviors that s/he is more prone to display. I may have written the chapter with the intended events and narration but the overall tone may be wrong and I have to rewrite. I wonder how others do it. I understand school and random courses help but I still wonder:
How do writers find the words?
I think the worst, absolute worst part of writing a story is the start. Not just the first line or chapter but the start of anything. I’ve noticed, since this attempt at this book is my first real attempt, that there are a lot of starts in one book. I’ve finally reached my halfway mark, I think, but I must have at least two, maybe three, stages of story development in there. They begin somewhere, these major events. Pivotal plot points and such, as they say. Do you want them to start in conversation, narration, or bleed from one moment to the next? You see how it all goes in your head but, for me at least, I don’t always see how it starts and that’s where I have the most trouble. I have to put the most thought into these areas because these set the entrance to a scene I seem to have woken up in. With only knowledge of where the next dot on the timeline is, I must find a way to prepare the reader. These starts are the background music in a movie that let you know the tenor of the environment of the scene and for me it’s like working backwards. I wonder if it’s like that for edumacated folk (haha).
I also don’t have a title. When I was in high school I wrote a lot of poetry. Most of it was really horrible. There was no doubt they were written by an angry, lost teen. But I learned a lot from these poems. I went to high school differently from most people and I joined this loophole program where I somehow ended up in this nationwide poetry forum. I met this boy in the forum and we would send each other poems every weekday. Some were funny, sad, or in response to the other’s. I didn’t have a habit of naming my poems but I started to for him. I found that I couldn’t write within the limits of a title. I can stay within the bounds of a particular topic but not under a lid such as a title. My thoughts are too wild for that. I realized that it didn’t matter because pulling the title from the story and not the story from the title gives you more room to branch out from your original idea while also following a loose timeline.
I like to think I’m learning as I go. If it’s typical for a writer to produce 5 or more drafts for each work, then I have a lot to learn still. I’m in no rush as I don’t foresee myself ever doing anything more than continuing to push ‘save’ at the end of each writing session so I have plenty of time to learn. I will continue with my war of words, fighting each battle one at a time and asking myself each day,
Would this be easier if I were a real writer?
To which I will reply
What difference does it make if it’s hard? We are doing this for fun.
Because I always act as if I’m a separate person in my head. That’s probably not at all normal.