Everyone is different.
A common phrase I’ll see on “Hey! You! Yeah, You! Here’s How You Become A Better Writer”-type posts is “YMMV,” or, “Your Mileage May Vary.” This means what works for one person may not work for another.
One individual might read the post and think, “Hey! This is exactly what I needed to read at just this time to write the next great American novel about a Midwestern businessman who sees through the veil of America and also it’s an analogy for the Bible maybe!”
Others could read the same post and go, “This isn’t for me. I’m going to go cry in a bathtub of ice cream and vanilla wafers.”
So, for this, with its slightly grit-filled outlook, if it doesn’t work for you, then that’s okay. It doesn’t have to. This particular bit of advice is for me and people like me who might appreciate a swift kick rather than a gentle hand.
I’ve played almost all the sports there are. (Except for golf. You don’t count. You’re one level above shuffleboard in terms of difficulty.) From the age of 5 I could hit balls off a pitching machine. I ran laps around the soccer field until I felt like throwing up. I did conditioning in football pads in Tucson summer until I ran out of fluids to sweat. I bumped enough volleyballs until my forearms were swollen and red.
I taught 5th, 6th, and 4th grade. In that order. I was born in the fires of a class who would go on to become the class from Tom Berenger film, “The Substitute.” My students were raised in a lower, socio-economic area of town, with few supplies and even less at-home support. Many had disjointed families, some had broken homes, while others didn’t have a home. I worked 13 hour days, 5 days a week, burning my mind at lesson plans and standardized test alignment, for less pay than a QuikTrip assistant manager.
I’m raising two twin sons, pushing me all day long for attention, laughter, and enjoyment. They don’t care about my needs. They only care about themselves. They’re six months old. Who’s going to tell them differently? No one, but I’m going to be there for them because they’re cute and I love their smushy faces.
So, now that I’ve gotten that out, let me get this across as clear as I can:
Writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I feel like whenever I get into one of these “revelatory thoughts” it’s always in the ballpark of, “Duh. We all knew that. If we didn’t know that don’t you think we’d all be famous authors right now?” And, for the most part, I think that’s true.
But I don’t think enough of us are telling ourselves that.
Writing is hard.
See, we set out to become writers because we wanted to tell stories. That means sitting with a laptop or a notebook or, if you’re really edgy, a typewriter, and getting those words down. What might slip from our imaginations as we picture ourselves writing is the mental preparation that goes into it.
Writing is hard, as hard as any of the things I listed before, but I don’t always tell myself that before I actually begin putting words to page. I don’t spend minutes psyching myself up like I did in sports, or preparing an entire week out in my head beforehand like I did teaching, or letting my paternal instincts kick into overdrive.
No. I sit and expect magic to come out of the keys, like a dum-dum.
It’s after 10:00pm while writing this. My boys just went down an hour and a half ago. I probably, at best, have another hour and a half in front of me before my body shuts down from pure physical exhaustion.
This is hard. This is going to be hard. You want to finish the outline for the book you’re supposedly going to start next week? You can do it. You can stay up late to finish it.
But it’s. Going. To. Be. Hard.
Maybe I’m alone, here.
Maybe I’m the only one that needs to have this kind of up front, obvious confrontation with myself, where I sit myself down, plant one foot on a chair, lean on my knee, then say, “Hey buddy. Don’t lie to yourself. Why would you lie to yourself? This is going to be tough. Staying up late, after spending all day as a Stay-At-Home Dad with twin sons? Trying to write? Trying to be creative? Of course this is going to be tough. Why wouldn’t it be tough? Why in all the worlds of heaven and space would you even think there’s anything you can do to make this easier?”
“It’s hard. But that’s okay.”
Stop lying to yourself. Or, better yet, stop telling yourself half-truths, where you think that if you’re smart enough, or quick enough, or have the right tools or the proper laptop or the perfect lighting or the exact temperature cup of coffee, that the hard work is going to be easy.
If you tell yourself staying up 3 hours after your sons go to sleep to get that little bit of extra writing in, to finish another page, to get a sentence down, then another, then another, is going to be the realest challenge of your life, surprisingly you’ll be more ready for it. Nothing prepares you for a 2-mile run or a day with troubled students or a 2am feeding quite like it.
Tell yourself it’s hard.
Thanks for reading,