I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. If you do too, you’ve probably seen these kinds of tweets:
My Writing Process!
1. Get tea
2. Sit at my desk
3. Check my email
4. Get more tea because the first cup is cold
5. Check Twitter
6. Oops, writing time is over! I'll try again tomorrow.
22.3k Retweets, 66k Likes
And yes, obviously that’s not a “writing process,” that’s the joke. There are a lot of these tweets, though, and a lot of “Writing is hard! Why do I do this to myself?” tweets, and… not a lot of “I love writing!” tweets. I suspect it has something to do with the medium, that Twitter is a place to whine on; misery loves company, and sharing your complaints to your hundreds or thousands of followers might make you feel a little better about them. It’s a place to vent.
But if Twitter is all you see from authors about their writing lives, then, by all it accounts, it appears to be an utterly miserable existence. If you’re an aspiring writer, you might wonder, “If that’s what it’s like, do I really want to keep going?” If you’re a reader, you might wonder, “If it was so painful to write, am I going to enjoy reading it?”
Maybe there are writers out there who really do hate every second of their work. It’s not unusual in any creative endeavor to get stuck, to doubt the quality of your creation, to want to give up. But let me say this: it is also fun! Really!
I love telling stories. I love writing them down and finding out what they are as they go–I love writing the scenes that have been waiting impatiently for me to catch up to them, and I love writing the scenes that I didn’t know were coming at all. I love finding out what makes my characters tick, what makes my worlds tick. I love making shit up. And I love sharing it when I’m done.
Is it hard sometimes? Yes! Do I get stuck? Yes! But if it were really all or even mostly misery, I wouldn’t be taking my phone to the bathroom so I could write on the toilet, would I? And here’s something I’ve figured out: every problem I face, when it comes to writing, has a solution.
If I’m blocked, if I can’t write, if I’m “out of ideas,” it’s because I’ve burnt out or run dry. I need to take a week off, read a book, watch a movie–and I need to look at how much I’ve been writing and figure out if it’s too much. The “creative well” is real and it does need to be refilled, or better yet, maintained.
If I’m stuck in the middle of a scene? The scene is probably actually done. Every scene has a purpose, and I’ve probably misidentified it, or written past it without noticing. Time to move on. That, or it’s gone in the wrong direction, and I need to go back and try again.
If I’m stuck on the next scene? Well, I don’t know what comes next. I need to skim through what I’ve already written to see what hints I’ve dropped, and/or brainstorm. I like to ask myself questions, like “What don’t I know about X?” or “What is Y assuming that might be incorrect?”
Something else? Probably Real Life getting in the way; every source of stress is also a problem to solve. Maybe I need to eat lunch. Maybe I have to pay my bills. Maybe I need more sleep! Wouldn’t it be nice to be, dunno, a brain in a jar wired into a computer…? But I am a real person with a living body that has to be attended to. Alas!
Anyway. If you’re also a writer, or want to be, yes, it’s okay to enjoy yourself. And if you’re a reader? You can rest assured I didn’t torture myself to write my stories. I had fun with them. I hope you do, too.