Being a Better Writer: So You’ve Discovered Writing is Work, Now What?

Hello readers! Welcome back to another glorious Monday Being a Better Writer post! Yeah, I’m in a good mood this morning. The Halo novel pitch draft is coming along nicely, I’ve got a fairly relaxed topic for the day, and a bunch of new music to listen to while I work!

This work included. Which doesn’t include too much in the way of news before I dive into it. Just one or two things coming up worth discussing.

First, the long-promised wrist post, complete with pictures and a sequence of events, will go up this week. Look for that around Wednesday or Thursday. I have to keep the actual date a little fluid, because tomorrow I find out whether or not I’m going back to work Wednesday, and from what I understand my job has been extremely strapped for workers lately.

It’s amazing. It’s like locking wages for seven years and paying below average market value with really bad hours (9 PM to 4 AM is common, with no compensation like most jobs would have for such a late shift; in fact it’s the lowest-paid job in the place) makes it really hard to keep employees. Especially in a place where the cost of living is currently skyrocketing. It’s like people want money or something in exchange for their labors. Weird, right?

Anyway, long way of saying that they may, if I am cleared for work tomorrow, have me in ASAP because yeah, they don’t have nearly enough employees.

Second bit of news? My books are almost at the halfway point for the end-year goal of 400 reviews and ratings. Seriously, three reviews away. 197 out of 200. So … close!

And that’s it for the news! Like I said, just one or two things. Now, onto today’s post!

So, this post may sound a little familiar to many of you. And that’s because I’ve written a bit on the subject before. Today’s is just from another angle, because surprise surprise, this topic is one I hear requests for constantly.

And in part, it’s because there are a lot of young writers out there who, well, to put it bluntly, with no sugar, think that they are different, that their situation is unique and different from the other new writers when it’s really not. I’m sorry to have to pull the band-aid off, but let me make something clear: It’s not. You may feel that because of the story you’re writing, or your circumstances, or your characters, or your genre, or any number of other reasons, that your story is unique, that if you were working on any other story or if it were some other individual’s writing, the trials you’re facing in these early moments wouldn’t occur.

But you’re wrong. Sure, there might be a small detail here or there that can make your situation a bit different, but at the end of the day?

Writing is work. Even when you love it.

You know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Work is fine. Work can be rewarding, deeply satisfying, and even fun. Work can also be frustrating, unfair, and mind-numbingly boring. It kind of depends on what you’re doing.

But so often I run into young writers who all ask the same general question. They tell me that they started writing something, and it was so exciting and fresh and new, and they were doing really well, and things were happening … and then day two started and it all ground to a halt, and they’re not sure what went wrong, and can I please help them figure out what went wrong so that they can get back to that new amazing feeling? Many of them will even admit that after several days of being unable to “fix it” they instead start another new story, driving ahead until the same thing happens, and so they start another new one, and another new one, and another new one.

Often, and unfortunately, I don’t really have the answer they want. Because I have to tell them that they’ve discovered what all writers have discovered: That writing is work, and that means you have to put effort into it. It means you have to shut down the distractions, the things that pull you away, and focus on it. It means that it isn’t always easy, or even fun. That sometimes you have to slog through several chapters of escalating tension to get to that awesome action scene at the end of the book you wanted to write. That your characters, and you, have to earn that cool twist or reveal.

It means spending brainpower and effort to figure out how one character will catch another in a critical moment. It means disconnecting your brain from the distractions around you, the things that are relaxing luxuries, and working at your story.

Because that is what writing is. It’s effort. It’s labor. It’s work. I can’t put it any more on point than that.

Now, this doesn’t mean that writing is a grueling, torturous, soul-sucking dead end like many jobs can be. Not, at least, if you have any love of it. Though I’ll admit that a lot of authors do invest their whole soul into it. But voluntarily.

But no, it’s not any of those things. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. Writing is fun! It’s awesome! I mean, I get to sit down and build worlds for people to experience. As soon as this article is written and posted, do you know what I get to do? I get to continue writing a scene in which a bunch of supersoldiers attempt to ambush and capture a smuggler, only to find that the smuggler is the one doing the ambushing.

Dun dun dunn!

That? That’s fun! But it’s also going to be a lot of work. Already I’ve had moments where I’ve sat for some time, staring at the screen, trying to connect several moments in my mind and work out how to best put them on paper. I’ve gotten up and walked around my living room deep in thought about how to best execute a particular part of a scene.

There’s a lot more of that coming, I know. Because even though I love it and enjoy it, that doesn’t mean that I simply sit down and the words flow without end, without any pause, for hours and hours on end. Sure, sometimes that happens, and that’s great. But sometimes I write for a few minutes, then pause and check an earlier chapter, then come back and write a few minutes more, then pause for a minute or two and think about the best way to approach the next scene, then I write a few minutes more …

Those starts and stops are part of what writing is. And while I love it, while it’s what I want to spend my life doing, that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. No more or less than my buddy who was a major gearhead considers working at an auto-shop work. Even if getting his hands greasy and working on tuning an engine is something he loves … That doesn’t mean it’s still not work.

News flash: You can enjoy and love your work, and it will still be work. And that’s a truth that a lot of new writers fail to understand. It doesn’t matter if you love it or not.

Writing is still work.

That’s what catches so many of these new writers off-guard. They haven’t made this connection yet. They’re in the fires of something new, and they mistakenly think that writing should be like this all the time.

Which isn’t logical. If I may make a comparison, that’s like going to a water park and expecting that all the fun of the waterslides can be had sitting on the concrete at the base of the steps to said slides. The fun of the water park is had in the various activities, and while you can still have a great time walking from one ride to the next, there’s no denying that the rides themselves are the highlight, and you’re going to have to exert some effort to get up the steps to that next event.

Writing is the same way. You arrive at the water park of your new story all fresh and excited and ready to go, and that buzz carries you through a few flights of stairs and a ride. But the next day, the “newness” has worn off, and you look at the next set of stairs, and suddenly you realize that they are stairs. That walking up them is going to take effort. And where is the buzz that carried you past them yesterday?

New writers that come to me asking after this often don’t like my answer, because they’re operating under the assumption that something makes those stairs disappear. That maybe there’s an elevator to the top that all authors discover and keep to themselves so that writing can be all play, all the time.

Some of them even get upset when I tell them that there isn’t an elevator. Closest I can come, while staying in the analogy, is someone else doing the work for you. Which, if you hang around writing sites online, you’ll see people asking after soon enough with posts along the lines of “Hey, here’s my idea, I want someone to write it for me and I’ll make sure you get partial credit.”

But short of paying someone to write your story for you (which does happen) the act of telling the story you want to tell is work. There will be ups and downs. Moments of frustration and elation intermingled.

But writing is work. Which means … now what?

That’s the real kicker here. For all these young writers (and perhaps you’re one of them), now what? Writing, as you’ve just been told, is hard. Is that day-one buzz gone forever?

No, it isn’t. It just means you have to work for it. But in the process, it’ll become something a bit deeper. More meaningful. Have you ever heard the old saying “A job well-done is its own reward?” Well, there’s truth to it. A lot of it, in fact.

Yes, writing is work. And that early-fresh buzz as you know it is probably gone, because that’s anticipation. Eagerness. But if you keep working, those emotions become something else. Satisfaction, for one. Confidence, for another. Dedication. Crud, love even applies. Much better than simply pure eagerness.

Better yet, those emotions diffuse the others. I’m excited to go to work on my Halo draft today because dang it, I like writing, and I’m about to write a great scene! I’m happy and proud of the way the characters are coming together, the setup that’s taking place. And all of that comes from the prior days of work. And I’m sure today there will be moments where I groan and sit there for a moment, staring at the screen, trying to connect various points in my head.

But that’s just the nature of the job. And at the end of the day I’ll still sit there and look at what I’ve written and feel a deep sense of satisfaction with how things are shaping up.

So, then, again, what does that mean for the young writer? Well, it means that if you’re serious about writing your story, serious about making it a goal, you’ll sit down and do it. You won’t, as I’ve seen before, sit down and play some computer game or watch TV while claiming that you’re ‘writing because the inspiration will come.’ Writing isn’t being a farmer that sits and waits for the rain to come water his crops. Writing is a the farmer that gets up off their butt and digs and irrigation trench.

Yes, it means working at writing your story. It means staring at a screen sometimes and trying to make the pieces fit. It means it won’t always be fun or easy. Neither is it fun or easy sometimes for a farmer to dig an irrigation trench. There may be roots in the soil that they have to chop through. There will be rocks that have to be pried free and hoisted out of the way. At the end of the day, they will be sweaty and dirty, a little sun-baked as well.

But at the end of the day? They’ll be able to look down and see the distance they’ve come. They’ll be able to see how much closer their crops are to being watered, while the farmer that waits for rain has nothing to show but the imprint of their butt on the porch steps.

That’s why there was one “writer” I knew who talked all the time about “how hard” they were writing. About how much of their day was spent at it and how difficult it was, etc etc. Except … they were very public about their activities, and regularly logged around 70 hours a week playing various games during their “writing time.” And at the end of the week? They would proudly inform the world of the amount of writing they’d gotten done that week with all their efforts … and it was … low. Really low. Below most author’s daily quotas.

I’m not trying to toot my or any other author’s horn there. My point was that they talked about writing work but did very little of it. They waited for “inspiration.” Their butt was on the front porch, waiting for rain to come and water their crops.

Don’t be the “writer” that sits and waits for rain to come. Writing is work. If you want to finish that story, reach the sweet payoff and “harvest your crop” you’ll have to “dig the ditch,” so to speak. Sit down, put a pen in your hand or a keyboard under your fingers, and work. Word by word, paragraph by paragraph, until the story is finished.

Work at it. Make those fingers ache. Write the story. Make your mind strain.

Because that’s how you get to the end of your story. And the feeling of accomplishment when you do? That’s far greater than the anticipation you will have felt at the beginning.

Writing is work. That’s how it’s always been. But you know what?

It’s good work, and it feels great.

So good luck, and get to it. Get writing.

Get working. The reward at the end is worth it.

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One thought on “Being a Better Writer: So You’ve Discovered Writing is Work, Now What?

  1. This is where NaNoWriMo is good for getting someone to write on a deadline. Even if the participant never publishes, they can learn to keep writing even when they don’t feel like it or don’t think they have an idea. Even if I never publish, that’s what I’ve learned.

    Liked by 1 person

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