Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When It's Right NOT to Write

Ever since this morning I've been thinking about not writing.

Victoria and I were chatting on the metro this morning about writers. She said that it annoys her when people say that writing "looks fun" because it is one of the hardest, scariest things to do and one of the most difficult industries to break into. She said that she often tells people *not* to do it if they can avoid it. Why? Because it's hard. It's scary; it makes you a little crazy (or a lot crazy). Victoria said if someone can live happily without writing, then they should do it; they should spare themselves. I mentioned editing and how much I love doing it, because I do, but it is not and could not replace writing. If I had to choose, it wouldn't be a contest. 

There are good reasons not to write, if you can manage it. I have examples.

1) Writing can make you crazy. 

A few weeks ago, one of my character went crazy in my head. His story was done, and I was plotting this new story. Usually (always) characters from various stories get filed away into different parts of your brain so they don't disturb you. On this day someone complimented this character, and he was like that cricket in the room that you can hear, but you can't seem to find. (aka. constant noise!!) Anyway, he made a comment about the character in the story I was plotting—and I was shocked. Normally (always) they never interact, they never even acknowledge that there are other people around, but Character A was talking about how he was better than Character B. All day. In my head. Eventually, he stopped or I went to bed, and it was over. But it made for a very long day.

2) Writing is hard.

I've mentioned on here a few times that I spent two years on one book. Two years and SEVEN rewrites, like beginning-to-end-scrap-it--and-start-over rewrites. I knew the characters, I knew the story, but what I didn't know was the best way to tell the story. It was really BIG. Lots of world-building, many characters, so much happening. Most of those re-writes were all structure related. It was hard. Really, really hard. Two years, seven times. Hard. You get it right and then someone reads and tells you that you didn't get it right. It's a constant uphill battle.I'm actually diving into this for another revision, which isn't a total re-write but is a change to MANY of the threads throughout the book. So, again, it's hard. Writing is always hard. It's a lot of stress. A lot of tears. A lot of angst. It can be un-ending.

3) Writing is scary. 

Sometimes you get this story idea and you have to sit down so you can process it. For me, these are usually AWESOME but they are large, or different from the last thing, or something I feel like I can't pull off. Writing is scary. It's scary when you're plotting, when you're talking about it, when you're letting other people read your work. It's scary when you sub to agents, when you talk to people who are ahead of you about the things that they are doing/not doing/learning/questioning. Even when creating words isn't involved, writing is scary. It makes you doubt yourself; it can cause jealousy; it can make you feel like the world is happening and you are hanging on, trying not to fall apart. It's emotional, connecting with characters and stories and hopes and dreams. Writing is scary. I've experienced all of this. And then, once you overcome that, the whole publishing possibility is scary. Nothing is certain, and uncertainty is a difficult place to live.

I realize that all of this is sort of depressing, but if you're a writer then you KNOW it's true. We've all been there. Victoria was right. If someone asked me, "Should I be a writer?" this is what I would say. If you can not write, then don’t do it. If you have other things that make you happy, pursue those. Save yourself. But I'm telling you that--if you're reading this—and you feel a little sick, a little anxious, a little defensive, then you are probably one of those people who HAVE to write. 

Ever since this morning I've been thinking about not writing.

And I've felt really on edge since our conversation. It makes me nervous to think about myself in a place where I'm not creating my own words. Because yes, I am an editor—and I love that—but for me, that's not enough. I can't do only that and survive. I can't only work at this job, or talk to my friends, or take up other hobbies. For me, there is nothing else. I can't NOT write. 

Can you?



  1. Great post. I can relate to the 'panic' if I couldn't write. You spend so much of you life, pouring heart and soul into a story I think you can only do it if you LOVE it. Some days it makes me more than a little crazy but it also makes me ME.

  2. So. Much. Truth.

    And, I can't not write. :)

  3. Great post. Thank you. Only writers understand.


    *crawls into a corner and tries not to cry*

  5. Danielle, your post is amazing. Your insights are real, honest, and heartfelt. It's inspiring to read something that clearly comes from such a genuine place. Thank you for expressing how writers feel.