So, for a long time, I’ve called myself a writer. I prefer the writing of plays over all other forms, so we’ll call me a playwright. But, the truth is that for a very long time, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing. I would have ideas. And I might write some down, but I would often get stuck and abandon the project. Because writing is hard.
And so, I read books. I picked up books about writing. About play writing. About story creation. About anything to do with writing. And I read them. And I was disappointed. Because what I was looking for was the secret. I was trying to find the shortcut. The secret formula or knowledge that would make the writing easy. Because I didn’t want it to be hard. Because I thought that if I loved doing something, it should be easy for me. And I did like writing, but not when it was hard. So I kept reading books on writing. And searching for the secret.
Over the last year, I’ve been writing more. I’ve been writing a lot in fact. And in working at it, I finally learned the secret that I’d been looking for. The secret of writing.
And I’m going to share it with you now.
Are you ready? Because here it is:
Writing is hard. There’s no shortcut. No easy fix. Sometimes the words come easily, and sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, you keep writing. Because that’s what writers do. You get writer’s block, and you keep writing. Maybe you switch to something else, and then come back to it. But you keep writing.
And that’s the truth of it. You can read every book on writing that there is. But until you start writing, you aren’t a writer. And those books won’t give you any shortcuts. Or formulas. Because they don’t exist. You just have to write. Every day.
Once I learned this truth, I have been pretty prolific. I’ve been writing plays, and finishing them. Because I push past when its hard, to when it becomes easy again. Sometimes it gets easy, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I keep writing.
I think that I had read that somewhere, but I wasn’t ready to hear it. Because I was still operating under the delusion that it should be easy for me. But I was wrong.
Because if writing was easy, everyone would do it. It matters, because it’s hard. And its worthwhile because it’s hard.
And that’s the secret.
I’d argue that some of the issue is that you’re writing out into space. If you can see someone at the other end, or actually be writing for them, the writing becomes less abstract.
Steinbeck would write in a ledger even pages the actual book, odd pages the warmup for that writing. And he’d write to his agent “today’s an important scene, blah, blah, blah” as the warmup.
When the internet came along, I wrote a lot more. Some of it mundane, but it was the practice of writing on a daily basis, and it was in reply to others or writing to an actual audience that was there. Some of what I’ve had to say has come out on the internet, some of the writing is just warmup, or a practice at writing without the contents being that important. It’s given me a style, and I think I have gotten better for it. And some of it is writing I wanted to write, and once I’ve done it I can reuse it into a different form. You[r voice becomes stronger because its about what you have to say, not repeating what others have said.
Not that I spend much time actually talking to people, but some of my best explanations while doing that comes because I’m trying to explain something, and in trying to do that, figure out what it’s actually about. It’s that need for stimulus, since all art and creativity is really a reaction to some outside force. If you don’t have someone asking “why would the homeless need a cellphone”, you aren’t likely to actually write down something you’d observed.
One thing to think about is that writing is a form. I write because I might as well not have a tongue, I do that badly in public. The ideas that I write come from observation, if I was someone else I’d be making speeches (or maybe not, maybe the ideas I see come from not speaking so I observe instead, I don’t know). A “great writer” may have the ability to string words together, but they have to have something else as a foundation for those words. I would argue that it’s that something else that is hard, putting it down on paper (or now in computer memory) is more about needing to sit down and write it out.