I’ve had more than a few interactions like this:
Carl: So, what do you do?
Me: Well, I like to say I’m a writer, but-
Carl: Oh man, I hate writing. I don’t know how you do it. Writing is the worst.
Me: Ha, yeah, I know, I’m weird. I just kind of enj-
Carl: I don’t even like writing emails. In school I always used Courier New size 14, double-spaced that (expletive). Writing sucks.
Me: Yeah, sometimes it does. (looks off into distance) Sometimes … it does.
If we can brush aside, for a moment, the notion that God (or someone) cleverly designed our society in a way where we each possess a unique, personal interest and/or talent, and that I would have as much disdain for hypothetical Carl’s job as “Equity Management Specialist Director Person at Fitch & McGoo” as he does for writing, it deserves to be examined whether or not hypothetical Carl has a point. Does writing suck?
Yes, it does.
It’s true that writing itself is not nearly as enjoyable as having written. And why wouldn’t it be so? What pleasure can be derived from fingertips hitting keys? Unless your fingertips are super sensitive and the process of typing is borderline sexual. In that case, writing is awesome and I would write all the time if I were you. But please, use protection. There are some nasty keyboards out there.
Writing, in reality, is a struggle. Writing requires lots and lots of time and patience that expend creative energy you’re not even sure you have. Time spent not writing feels wasted, but time spent trying to write when nothing is there feels wasted and frustrating. Writing is not a job you can just go the office and bang out, like dumb ol’ Carl with his equity derivatives.
Rare (though a-MA-zing) is the occasion where inspiration takes over, the words pour out, and writing itself becomes a source of enjoyment. But it’s not like we can even work toward that end because we never know if or when such free-flowing inspiration will hit. PLUS, when these moments of literary bliss actually do strike, we can’t even see them through to a seamless, creative end because:
- Writing needs to be edited. By an objective outsider who wants to strip away the creative process and fit your heart and soul into his or her little box. (Shout out to editors—just playin’! Ya’ll make the world go ‘round.)
- Writing brings out the worst in us. The least neurotic person will emerge from the writing process as Larry David. “Why didn’t you comment on my blog post? You only Google plus-one’d it? Anyone can do that. You hate my writing, don’t you? I’m not sure we can be friends anymore … if we ever were.”
- Writing is a burden. I don’t know if this one is personality-driven or something we writers generally share, but writing is always a burden. Always. Writing on our own feels like something we have to do or else the people we think are out there waiting for it will be disappointed, and also because “writing is improved by writing,” and if we don’t write something we will fail and regress as writers and people. Writing a book? But didn’t write anything today? Ha, fail much? Your book will never be finished. Just give up. You will die an unpublished death.
- Oh, and assigned writing? Pfft. Assigned writing is always the worst. Someone could say to me, “Mike, I want to pay you $1,000 to write on the topic of, ‘What if the ’96 Yankees were an episode of The Office?’ Please curse liberally, and I want you to write it while getting a massage and sipping an absurdly large piña colada,” and I would be like, “BUT WHEN IS IT DUE?”
Even writing this very thing you are reading right now was a weight almost too much to bear. Ross emailed me like, “Any ideas for the blog?” and my eye started twitching and I had to Google “eye-twitching” and convinced myself I had Ebola.
(By the way, I feel like I just created Buzzfeed’s list of “27 Things Only People Who Write Will Understand.” Shoot me now.)
Anyway, my point is: writing sucks.
/What’s that, Editorial Department? Try and end with a positive? Geez. Fine./
Ha, ha, just kidding! Writing is great. Well, it isn’t really, but here’s the thing: in the context of writing not being as good as having written, we’ve only examined the former, the negative. The truth is that having written, and having written well … there is quite simply nothing better. Attaining that level of satisfaction is kind of the reason we became writers in the first place, right? It’s a high only writers get to experience, and when we feel it we know all the struggle and neuroses and stress were worth it because we wrote WORDS that will be READ BY STRANGERS. And how cool is that?
So, yeah, writing might suck, at least sometimes. But even at its worst moments, it’s still far better than not writing. For example, this very post originally ended with me cursing out Carl, but it was edited out. But that’s okay. I’m doing okay.