This Writing Life: No Complaints

A few days ago, in response to an article from LitHub titled “Writing is Terrible, Complaining About it Is Fine” I commented:

“Writing isn’t terrible at all. It’s a calling. A blessing. A chance to dance with your muse. It is a beautiful wonderful treasured gift.”

To which someone said “I feel you may have missed the point. She is just stating that it is hard and frustrating, if one is trying their best.”

So I (twice) re-read the article, which features a speech by author Kelly Link in which she offers up advice to a gathering of newly-published writers. And while there are a few thought-gems for sure, the take-away for me is still the first point she makes:

“Writing is terrible. Because it is terrible, it is appropriate to complain about it. It is enjoyable to complain about it. Complaining about writing is writing adjacent and therefore entirely professional. It eats up time in which you might otherwise be expected to do more writing.’

Of course, this sentiment isn’t new. It doesn’t take long to find the same martyred opinion from other wrtiers; in any set of motivational quotes about writing one can find words like hurt, disease, murder. Of writing, Hemingway said “all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Doctorow called it “a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia,” and Orwell said “writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.”

Oy vey! Am I supposed to feel that way?

I’ve spent the last two weeks tangled in technology — hurt hard drives, struggling software, murderous upgrades — and missing, dare I say aching, for my writing time. The only hard and frustrating thing has been not having easy access to the tools of my craft: a clickety keyboard, a responsive screen, the mingling of old-school typing and twenty-first century resources.

If this craft were so terrible and torturous, would I risk the ire of clients by stealing this weekend for my writing and only my writing? Would I wake excitedly for time alone with my muse, the two of us reconnecting (finally) over coffee at 3 this morning?

Another commentor on LitHub called me privileged — in that bad way, you know? “This feels a little privileged,” she said, because for her writing is “traumatic and labored.”

This is semantics, right? She means, probably, privileged 1. having special rights, advantages, or immunities. That I am somehow elite or advantaged versus privileged 2. having the rare opportunity to do something that brings particular pleasure.

Which makes me wonder: Am I privileged (synonyms: lucky, blessed, honored) to be a writer?

You betcha!

Image and Essay by Jen Payne.

2 Responses

  1. Your post here spoke to me! There have been times that writing hasn’t been enjoyable and that is because I was dealing with writer’s block and/or writing droughts. The act of not writing hurt. Lately though, writing has gotten a bit easier. When it’s hard, is when I get in my own way. Discipline and getting yourself in the chair is hard and can be painful, but can transition into a wonderful feeling once you can get yourself to sit.

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