Writing can be difficult – even for professional writers. Sarah Ondriezek discusses her love/hate relationship with writing and gives tips for navigating the hardest parts of writing process.
“I hate writing, I love having written”Dorothy Parker
Do you enjoy writing? Do you enjoy weaving the right words together to create a fantastic story? Do you love the positive feedback your friends and family give when you let them read your work? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, do not become a writer.
On the other hand, do you enjoy rejection? Does it thrill you to revise the same work a dozen times? How do you feel about a group of your peers critiquing a poem that took you weeks to perfect? Do you enjoy tedium? Frustration?
Listen, choosing to be a writer means signing up for a life of frustration and rejection. I don’t make the rules. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner didn’t become alcoholics because writing is easy. Writing is difficult – making it your career is not for the faint of heart!
“Ignorance is bliss”Thomas Gray, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”
The circuitous road that led me to write was lined with family, teachers, and drunk strangers’ compliments. If I had known that writing was difficult, tedious work – I never would have chosen it as a career. My own ignorance led me down this road.
I spent most of my formative years preparing for a career as a ballerina (I wasn’t very good). In college, I bounced from business to law and later psychology as potential careers. Writing just happened to be something at which I excelled; it came easy to me due to being an avid reader, I suppose. My career began to encompass more writing and communication responsibilities, leading me to return to school to complete an undergraduate degree in English.
It was here, during my first creative writing class, when I discovered that I hate writing.
The assignment was to write a short story in the vein of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” where the reader is only privy to a conversation between the main characters but never given any context or background information. I was not fond of the story, nor did I like Hemingway. An untrained writer, I was unaware of literary devices, let alone how to use them properly. I didn’t know about nouns and verbs doing the heavy lifting, so I used far too many adjectives. Metaphors, analogies, and imagery came to die in the graveyard of my short story. I used clunky and unnatural dialogue. Poor spelling and passive voice reigned supreme. I wrote the entire piece in one sitting and submitted it without editing; it was destroyed in the critique group. I mostly ignored my peers’ helpful notes when I submitted my final copy, believing that my writing didn’t need revision.
“Anyone who says writing is easy isn’t doing it right.”Amy Joy
My ever-patient and helpful creative writing professor often gave me advice to strengthen my writing – tips for becoming a better writer.
Anyone can learn the rules of good writing: grammar, spelling, punctuation, plot, tone, imagery, and so on. With training and practice, a good writer can become a skilled writer by using his or her toolbox of metaphors, allusion, and foreshadowing. I like to think that learning this skillset is the easy part of writing.
What do you write about? This is the challenging part! Do you wait to be inspired? Do you write every day on a schedule?
I’m a woman who thrives on structure – finding that if I sit down every day at the same time and force myself to write something for thirty minutes, I’ll get something out of it. Maybe it will be garbage, but then again, perhaps I’ll get something great out of it. What works best for me is combining a writing schedule, reading books and poetry, a writer’s group with frequent critiques, and learning to embrace revision.
“The first draft of everything is shit”Ernest Hemingway
I’m leaving you with writing tips that have helped me over the years. If I still haven’t dissuaded you from becoming a writer, I hope that a few of these will help your work!
- Look for inspiration everywhere (carry a notebook and pen)
There is always something to write about! Inspiration may be at the bus stop, during lunch, or at the grocery store. Keep a notebook and pen with you to scribble down things that strike inspiration.
- Writer’s block is real
Sometimes you’re not going to be able to write, and that’s okay! Don’t give up – schedule time to write, and force yourself to write something every day. You may write something that’s garbage, but at least you’ve written.
- Pigeonhole yourself
If you are a poet, do not write news articles. If you are an essayist, do not write short stories. Stick to your genre and become an expert in it.
- Embrace criticism and expect rejection
Thick skin is the best armor. You will write pieces that may be harshly critiqued – use the feedback to make your writing stronger. Your work will be rejected – don’t let it get to you. It may take a dozen times to successfully publish a piece!
- Play around with your paragraphs
Move your last paragraph to the beginning of your piece. Shuffle the middle sections around. Read through it and see how it sounds. Use this method for everything you write. You will walk away with something unexpected and possibly better than you’d intended.