Writing Is Hard
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For me, writing is frustrating. Many times I have trouble writing about anything.
The main reason why I have so much trouble when writing, is because I don't concentrate
on my work enough. Even when I try my hardest to concentrate, my mind seems to
wonder around to a different direction towards another thought. After that, I forget all
about my work and just think about various things such as people, places, and different
times I've had in the past. For example, even while I'm writing this small paragraph, my
mind keeps on slipping into other thoughts. I dont know if this happens to lots of people,
but this is one problem that I have trouble the most in. Maybe this is why I'm a slow
writer and don't like to write.
When I write, I'm usually in my house sitting right where my computer is. One
thing about me is that I hate writing anything with a pen and a paper. Most of the time
when writing an essay, report, or anything else, I type it on my computer. I can probably
type 50 times faster than writing by hand. I guess it's just something that I'm better at. I
can type about 80-85 words per minute. If that isn't fast, then I dont know what is. When
writing, I can write when it's quiet, loud, during the day, during the night, and during
whatever atmosphere I'm in. Even if the whole house is quiet, I usually listen to music
while typing an essay. However, the best time and the best atmosphere for me to write
anything would be during late at night when everything seems pretty quiet around me.
Another important thing to me when writing, is that I can not have any distractions near
me or around me. Even the internet on my computer has to be disabled or else I would be
tempted to surf online.
Writing is like expressing my feelings onto paper. I can write songs, poems,
quotes, stories, letters, and just almost anything that you could think of. You can learn a
great deal about a person by the way they write or just by the way they express certain
words on paper. Writing can also be a part of your life.
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Main Reason Distractions Guess Minute Surf Paragraph Direction Trouble Quotes Wonder
While reading one's paper, you
can find out about their culture, beliefs, education, and much more. Not only that, but you
can also tell what that person has been going through in their life. It is like having your
own history book except that the book is about you, and not on America or some other
I write whatever I feel most comfortable with and also wherever my imagination
can take me. Most of the time, I write short stories that have or had something to do with
my own life. Either that, or I'll most likely write about some topic that I have good
enough information on. When I am writing about things that had happened in my life, I
could drift away to that certain time and recall all the little details and events that took
place. When I write, I also tend to exaggerate quite a bit not because I want to make it a
fiction, but because I tend to mix up my stories with some imaginations of mine. Last
time I wrote about a past event, I wrote on what I did on my graduation night. I could
picture and recall every second of that night just as if it took place last night. My
imagination helps me remember the events that took place in the past. My imaginations
might not really be imaginations, but small clips of eventsof my life that I would've hoped
it went on differently.
I dont like others to read my writing because I am not confident enough of my
work and because I don't think I'm a very good writer. When I compare an essay of mine
to another person's essay, it seems as if I have written an essay in an elementary level and
the paper of the other person is a paper of a college level student. The second reason why
I dont like others to read my writing is because I'm not happy about others getting to
know me through the paper I have written, especially when it's a story about me. I dont
know if its because I have had some personal problems in the past, but I always seem to
back out when I'm offered to read my papers out loud. It might appear obvious to you
while reading this paragraph that I'm not a very open person or a very confident person
when it comes to writing.
Do you ever wonder why things happen the way they do? This is the one thought
that always roams inside my head. Sometimes there will be things that will make you
laugh, cry, smile, flatter, happy, sad, and many more. But above all these, I always
wonder why this happened or why something had to end up that way. There are lots of
things that can make you wonder: why the coyote can never catch the road runner, why
Pinky and The Brain can never take over the world, why people have to die, and many
other questions. I dont know if everyone has the same thought I have. I believe that every
event that happens in everybody's lives happens for a reason. Sometimes, there are things
that go wrong and things that go right. No matter what happens, always remember that in
the end there will always be a reward for that event. You will always learn a valuable
lesson from it.
I have learned a great deal about writing. Lets think about this first. Think way
back when you were in kindergarten, what about elementary school, middle school, and
now high school? Everybody will agree with me that through out the years, not only me
but also everybody learned a great deal about writing. Looking back at your old papers
can make you laugh because when you read your old papers, it doesn't seem that you
had written them at all but some uneducated person did. Also, I'm pretty sure that I will
look back at the papers that I have written during this semester and laugh about every
single mistakes I had made. Not only this semester, but I believe that this will go on for
the rest of my life.
By Scott Berkun, Aug. 28 2006 (#54)
Writing is easy, it’s quality that’s hard. Any idiot who knows 5 words can write a sentence (e.g. “Dufus big much Scott is”). It might be without grammar, broken, or inaccurate but it is still writing. This means when people can’t start they’re likely imagining the polished precision of the finished work. That vision makes the clumsy junkyard that all beginnings must be, impossible to accept. While it’s true that good voice, tone, rhythm, ideas and grammar are essential to good writing, they’re never introduced all at once. I promise you, the first draft of Strunk and White didn’t follow Strunk and White. The secret, if you can’t start, is to begin without constraints. Deliberately write badly, but write.
For this reason writer’s block is a sham. Anyone who wrote yesterday can write today, it’s just a question of if they can do it to their own satisfaction. It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well; something quite different. Certainly every writer has moments of doubt, but the way out is to properly frame what’s going on, and writer’s block, as commonly misunderstood, is a red herring.
Consider this: Have you ever been blocked while playing Frisbee? Eating doughnuts? Dancing naked in your living room? Those are joyful things and there’s nothing at stake: if you fail, who cares? Nobody. If there are no rules, and no judgment, psychological blocks are impossible. And remember writers like making up names and overthinking things: there is no term for architect-block, painter-block, juggler-block or composer-block. Every creative pursuit faces similar pressures, but they don’t obsess about it the way writers seem to do.
So play. Loosen up. Smile. Break the framework that’s making it impossible to start. Forget the deadline and the assignment and just be an open mind with a pen. Remember that until you say you’re finished, you can break all the rules. If you can’t get started, your psychology is making the challenge bigger than you can handle. Thinking of the book, the chapter, the page, the paragraph, is all too big if while you’re thinking, the page remains blank. Like a weightlifter out of his class, a writer with a blank page needs to lighten the load.
Writing hacks for starting
In the grand tradition of lists and books of hacks, writing hacks are clever little actions that give you leverage and put the dynamics in your favor. Here in part 1 it’s all about how to start.
Start with a word. The first goal is to get one word on the page. It can be any word, but you have to choose it, and put it down. I’m partial to the ridiculous, so for me it’s often Papaya, Pomegranate or Throat-warbler-man-grove (If you’re thinking that’s not a word, go back two paragraphs). If one word was easy, go for two. Still feeling lucky? Go for a small sentence. It doesn’t matter what the words are, but get them down. Write the lyrics to the song on the radio, the names of people you’ve slept with, your favorite Dr. Seuss lines, it just doesn’t matter. Once all the magic muscles in your little fingers get going, you’ll soon find yourself, in between rounds of one fish blue fish, writing some intelligent things. If your energy fades, repeat. Return to the unit of writing anyone can do, and build up again.
Write about how it feels not to be able to write. It’s sneaky, but damn, this works every time. The voice in our heads is always saying something, so put it down. Writer-weenies call this free writing, implying something unfortunate about other kinds of writing, but I find it easier to think of as listening. Imagine yourself as a recording device, writing down the radio broadcast of some other person who happens to live in your head. If you think this is weird, write about why it’s weird (See: you can’t lose – there’s always a way). Eventually your mind will hit thoughts on the topic itself and, presto, you’re on your way.
Have a conversation. Since you can’t get “converse with a friend” block, call up your buddy and talk. Get their opinions on whatever you’re writing, or throw them a bit of yours. Take notes about the conversation. Guess what? You’ve started writing. Friends are too busy? Go to a café or bar. I’ve found that if you tell bartenders you’re a writer, after they stop laughing, they’ll happily chat and occasionally give you free drinks. In a pinch, or if you’re a loner, talk with your dog. No dog? Create an imaginary friend (or three). Perhaps I’m insane, but I talk to myself all the time, and sometimes I even like the answers. If you know a writer friend, be writer buddies, available by phone to help each other get started.
Read something you hate. Opinions come easy to me, but some days I’m as indifferent as the wind. To get started I’ll read things that I can’t stand, express opinions in violent opposition to mine and, when pressed, are written so poorly my eyes burn straight through the pages. A paragraph of outstanding tripe is intellectual smelling salts. It puts me on my feet, sticking and jabbing like Muhammad Ali, raving and ranting on the page. I can rarely use those first rant-laden riffs, but it puts me in the ring. Sometimes its love you need, so go to your masters: Emerson, Fitzgerald, Orwell, King, get your nose into whoever’s writing get you jazzed. Writers often write about writing, a trick few arts can follow; so reflective motivation from writers is easy to find.
Warm up. Do you imagine Olympic sprinters wake up and immediately sprint around the house? Of course not (unless they drank too much the night before). No one performs well without easing muscles and emotions into place. And everyone warms up differently. Sometimes responding to e-mail works because hey, that’s a kind of writing. Or type the alphabet forwards and backwards. Maybe revise something old and unfinished to get warm. My ritual is to type in quotes from good books I’ve read to get the fingers in rhythm and my mind thinking good writer thoughts. More exercises here and here.
Make lists. Nonfiction often starts for me as bulleted lists. I imagine what things the finished work would answer, how it would do it and I write it down. Not that I know how to fill them, but what might good section headings be? List making is never as threatening as “writing”, so go there first (There is no shopping list block, is there?). I kick the list around for awhile, changing, moving, shuffling, and then once it has critical mass, I put in a document and go. And I’m always ready to leave the list, and my plan behind, if I find a sweet spot: the list is a tool, not a contract. I have dozens of essay ideas in various states of list form, in a Moleskine, slowly growing until they’re ready.
Switch to something harder. My wife is an artist, and for years she’s worked on two paintings at the same time, switching between them. Why? When she’s hit a wall on one project, the second project is a godsend: it’s an escape that’s still productive. I use this hack as follows: when stuck on project A, including not being able to start, I’ll joyfully switch to project B, thinking I’m pulling one over (on myself of course, but even the idiocy of self-delusion is tolerable to the acid misery of returning to A). But 20 minutes later when I hit a wall on Project B, a wall that, by comparison, seems like the Maginot line, I’m more than happy to return to A, even if it’s a blank page. I’ve forgotten A’s particular horrors, and jump in, possibly over the hurdle that seemed impossible before.
Run like hell. I can’t write if my body isn’t happy and my body feels happy when it has been used: it likes to run or lift or almost anything. So think physical: let your body get out the stresses that block your mind. Go for a run, mow the lawn, chase your cat, do something to get your body moving, and your mind relaxed. If you move your body, your mind will follow. Maybe take a bath, get a massage, have sex, anything physical and positive. If you get into the activity enough I bet you’ll have a moment when your body is finally happy enough to let your mind do its work.
Whiskey. Yes, alcohol is writing’s seductive little mistress. A well timed shot of whiskey can work wonders for the jittery, neurotic mind. It’s the shock to the system that works for me, so when I can’t start, there are alcohol free alternatives to get things flowing: a cold shower, an underwear clad run up the driveway, a shot of espresso, a peek at my naked wife, the list goes on. Don’t depend on these (as the more you use, the less they work, except for the last one), but occasionally they’re the only way.
Rummage your scrap pile. In 1994 I started writing a novel. By this I mean I created a word document named “My Novel”, hit save and then got drunk with friends. The next day, terrified as I was to return, I created a second document, called “My Novel – notes”. And in there I wrote down every idea that came to me about what might be in the novel. Only had one at first (“The narrator gets drunk. And then…well…hmmm”) but more came the next day. It was a hard core rule: If I had any idea at any time, I wrote it down immediately. No exceptions (Thus, the moleskine). I’d think of snippets of dialog, lines of narrative, names for characters, or bits of plot, and stick them in, rarely looking at the previous bits. Eventually I had enough material to psyche myself up for the dive back into “My novel” as it wasn’t a blank page anymore.
Smart writers have stockpiles of old ideas to arm themselves against the evils of the blank page. When stuck, rummage. Laugh at the goofy ideas. Groan at the pretentious ones (there will be many). Feel the occasional awe of not remembering writing something that shines or happens to fits your blank page. Like a flea market or garage sale, let ideas feel cheap, light and easy to throw around. If you can do that, new work will get off the ground almost on its own.
 I sometimes write “I have nothing to say” and repeat it on the page. I’ll go and go until I get so pissed off that I decide it’s less painful to write something real than it is to watch myself type this idiotic phrase forever. We always have something to say: we’re just not always brave enough to say it. A little self torture can sometimes bring it out.
 True story. This essay started when someone sent me a link to this essay on When you can’t get started, which you might like, but I had trouble with. Halfway through I had so many ideas I jumped into a blank page and didn’t stop until I had a draft of much of this essay. Mind you, as a writer I know this subject well, and had done plenty of thinking on this topic beforehand.
 By the act of writing “writers often write about writing” I’m writing about writers often writing about writing, which means you’re reading about writing about writers writing about writing. Say that ten times fast and I’ll give you a cookie.
 I wrote the novel on and off for 10 years, and finished in 2005 (with draft #5). Currently unpublished.
I thought for sure there would be many essays titled “writing hacks” but I only found one when I wrote this. Most links are to things about writing code hacks.