storytelling technique — September 26, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Why I Hate To Write

by

I hate to write. Odd when you think about it, since I’ve made my living as a copywriter.

But copywriting isn’t writing in the way that I hate writing. Copywriting is more like gag writing, you see, and I can deal with that. The short form, the clever turn of phrase. The breezy glibness of it all.

What I’m talking about is hating to write the kind of thing I’m writing right now: the longer-form blog post or essay. And I imagine writing a novel or a screenplay would be something I’d hate beyond words.

But as long as we’re at it, I figured I’d try to analyze why it is I hate to write. I’ve learned that many of you hate to write as well, so you might find what follows useful or comforting or at least a pleasant way to pass the time.

I hate to write because I hate the pain

Writing hurts, and I’ll soon address some of the reasons why. But it’s first worth mentioning that some of our greatest writers have found writing painful, most notably Dorothy Parker who quipped “I have writing, I love having written.” Then there’s Papa Hemingway’s “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down and bleed.”

I hate to write because I hate commitment

One of the reasons writing hurts is that it demands that I commit to something. I can’t just jot down any words, or all of the words that are ringing in my head, but these particular words. Any maybe they’re not the best words. Perhaps there are better words or a better arrangement of words lurking around upstairs. It’s painful to choose when the universe of choices is so big.

I hate to write because it reveals who I am

As with any creative endeavor, what you write is like a mirror. It reflects what you really think and feel. You look down at the page and ask “so that’s what I think?” And if you’re like me, you’re disappointed. But it sounded so good in my head.  

I hate to write because I’m scared that I suck

What’s often revealed to me is that most of my ideas are received ideas, lacking originality. I express myself, and therefore think, in clichés. There’s a notable lack of imagination combined with a near-embarrassing awkwardness. In short, I suck. Sure, I know if I worked harder at it, if I revised and revised (writing is rewriting!) I might be able to move it up a level. But the climb appears so steep and the starting point so low that it’s dispiriting.

I hate to write because I have nothing to say

I have to call into question the entire notion that communication and connection are absolute goods. Often I have nothing to add to the conversation. And others, for the most part, have nothing to say either. Maybe it would be best if we all just shut up. Not a healthy outlook for a writer’s life.

I hate to write because no one will read it

Paradoxically, despite hating what I write and questioning whether there’s any point to it at all, I do want people to read my stuff and say that they like it. But that rarely happens (and I’ve got the data to prove it!) It might have nothing to do with my writing per se. There’s so much stuff out there that the odds of being read are stacked against you from the get-go. If I were a celebrity I might have a better shot at an audience. But I’m not. Altogether this adds to the sense of futility, that the entire enterprise is pointless, independent of what I write or how good or bad it might be. Now, there are those who say “just write for yourself” which sounds reasonable in the abstract. But it’s never worked for me. What I really want is attention and validation. That requires other people.

Well, that wasn’t too painful, was it?

I think I’ll leave this here. You might be having a good time but for me the pain is building up.

I did generate a whole bunch of words and sentences, however. Guess that’s some kind of achievement.

And I hope it provided you with something you want, or even need. Maybe you feel like I do and find it nice to know there’s a fellow traveller. Or perhaps you don’t feel this way at all and simply enjoy observing someone struggle with self-doubt. Or maybe it was just a not-too-painful way to distract you from your work and your worries.

Whatever the reason, thanks for hanging in there.

Hope to write for you again soon.

4 Comments

  1. Michelle Farnum

    I liked this. Those were good words and sentences.

  2. David Intrator

    But they’re not the best words. Donald Trump has the best words.

  3. Bill Crownover

    the very best everybody loves them

  4. In fact most of these factors apply to the simple fact of existing, don’t they? Paradoxically, it’s easier to write when you don’t give a shit whether anyone is reading the words or not. It’s nice to have at least one person to listen to you, of course. Recently, when I give a lecture in person, about five people are in the audience. And yet when I write something for an online audience, I can see that there are dozens, at least, who are reading my prose. Odd.

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