Does it ever get easier?


I was Guest of Honor at Phoenix Con, a Dublin-based sf/f convention, this last weekend, and at one of the panels–the topic of which was “writing with a full time job” but which kind of just got off on “writing in general”, and in which we were discussing the daily slog of writing–a woman asked, “Does it ever get easier?”

All three of us on the panel said, resoundingly, “No!”

The poor woman looked utterly crushed.

The thing is, though, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t. Some years ago I was at the gym and there was a woman in her, oh, late sixties, who was in fantastically good shape and who I saw there every morning. She was discussing her gym habits with someone else, and said, “I’ve been getting up and going to the gym every morning for the last twenty years, and I still have to *make* myself get out of bed every day.”

Yeah. Like that. Only with the words.

I mean, sure, there are days where you’re on fire and you don’t want to do anything but write and it’s all coming along brilliantly and rah rah rah go team go! But there are a hell of a lot more days when you just have to get up and write whether you want to or not; days when every word is like pulling teeth; days when it is, yes, a *total* slog to get anything done, and it never gets any easier.

Today is one of those days, if you hadn’t guessed.

I’ve broken 100K on this book–the one I was hoping to have done by the beginning of March (which would’ve been only a month late :p) and which I was unable to work on for three weeks due to smashing my hand. I am, unsurprisingly, pretty much exactly 3 weeks further behind than I intended on being. Sigh. Anyway. Broke 100K, and left a scene hanging while I went off to the convention. I left it hanging for two reasons: one, I know what happens in it, so starting up again theoretically isn’t hard. This is always a good thing when faced with any kind of a break.

Reason #2, however, is that this scene is a slog, and finishing it /is/ hard, which is why I didn’t manage to get it done before going to the con. It’s pivotal. It has to work. And while I’m a great fan of “you can’t fix a blank page”, this is one of those bits that while it can be polished later, needs to work *now*, or I won’t be able to get past it. So I’m spending a lot of time staring at the computer screen, not actually writing because the idea of writing is intimidating. When I do write, it’s a sentence or two, and then I worry about whether they’re the right ones, and I sit there being uncertain of what to write next, and I try to see if the whole thing flows together, and…slog slog slog.

I need to write something on the order of 60K over the next 2 weeks to get this book done (and give it an edit pass) before the end of April, which is SO MUCH LATER than I want to turn it in it makes me very unhappy. I can’t really afford to indulge in the slog mindset. Which means, I suppose, that writing this post is my way of kicking myself in the butt, and that I had better go chew through the rest of this scene whether I like it or not.

*grinds teeth and slogs off*


7 comments to Does it ever get easier?

  • Each of us has been there, Catie. Good luck with the rest of the book. We’ll be pulling for you even as we slog our way through our own books.

    For everyone else: yes, this is exactly how I feel. I LOVE being a writer, and as Catie says, there are days of sheer creative joy, when the words just flow and a certain scene “writes itself.” But the vast majority of my days are slog days; days when I REALLY don’t want to write. Writing is hard work, and the success I’ve had in my career (such as it is) has much less to do with any writing talent I might have than it does with my determination to sit down everyday and write my books.

    So why do it if it’s such a slog? Good question. It’s certainly not the money. I could be making more in just about any other line of work. Basically, I write because I have to. Because if I didn’t, if I kept these stories and these characters bottled up inside me, I’d go nuts. I’d be one of those guys on the street who mumbles to himself and who you’ll cross a busy avenue to avoid.

  • When I first started writing with an eye toward publication, I kept running into people who would say things like, “Writing is such a joy! I couldn’t get through a day without spending hours writing! It’s better than chocolate! It’s better than sex!” and so on.

    And there I’d stand, staring at their jubilation, thinking, “There are days when even the piles of teenager laundry are more appealing than writing – what’s wrong with me?” 😀

  • Misty, do these people truly exist? I am amazed, because even though writing gives me great joy, mainly the ending part, when everything works as a fine mechanism I find the actual writing a bit of a pain in the neck sometimes, around 60% of the time, because ideas simply don’t want to assume any kind of shape and get dressed in pretty words.

    I actually kind of look at Math on the sucky days and think that it sounds like a better thing to do and trust me Math ain’t my thing, we are several planes of existence wide apart.

    Miss Murphy, I give you my most solemn and firm nod, when I say that your post sums everything a writer experiences just they way he/she does in the hard moments.

  • What David said:

    “Basically, I write because I have to. Because if I didn’t, if I kept these stories and these characters bottled up inside me, I’d go nuts.”

  • Mark Wise

    My problem is that I was blessed/cursed with to much inertia, which for the physics types out there means “an object in motion will tend to stay in motion unless something else acts upon it. It goes also for being at rest.”. I am loathe to write and I will put it off and leave it as the last thing on my to-do list. Yet when I actually start writing, I dive into it whole heartily so it is hard to pull me away from the computer.

    So here I am, left with an over abundance of inertia.

  • You know, I went to lunch late, which meant I was alone in the lounge with my book and my thoughts. And it occurred to me that maybe it’s our words that aren’t always specific enough. Because the writing, the words that are finally, at last on the page, the amazing story that fills my head and captures my soul, those things ARE better than chocolate.

    But the writing, the searching for the perfect word and the hours in a chair that leaves my back hurting and my eyes burning, the inner battle between my mental editor and the character’s wants and needs…that’s what’s so hard.

    So maybe the shiny-happy writers HAVE figured out something I haven’t. *sigh*

  • Hugs your way, Catie.
    And if it helps, I have one rule of thumb about the spot in a book where you currently reside.

    Kill off a character.


    Yeah, I know it works best for a mystery, but it does wonders for any kind of writing.
    It can free your state of mind and opon your muse up and carry you through the doldrums. And carries less of a penalty than killing off a family member or an editor.