Is This the Hardest Thing About Writing a Book?

Keep writing anyway. Try.

It’s no secret that writing a book is hard. If it were easy, everyone could do it.

But writing a book isn’t difficult for only the reasons most people assume. From the outside looking in, it can seem like writing is difficult because a writer is trying to expand a unique idea, or they have Writer’s Block, or it’s just generally assumed writers spend most of their time talking about writing but not actually writing anything.

What I don’t see writers talking about enough is WHY writing a book is so hard. I don’t mean that telling a story is a hard thing to do — weaving together a decent plot and all that.

Writing is an extremely physically, mentally, and emotionally draining activity. WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING MORE ABOUT THIS?

It’s not that writing is not enjoyable (most of the time) or that it’s so easy we put less effort into it and appear as though we aren’t doing much.

No. It’s that writing is like exercising physically while doing a crossword puzzle and watching a really intense, emotional movie simultaneously. You walk away from it and you feel like you’re DYING.

Not because the experience was bad, but because you. Are. Just. So. Tired.

This is one of the many things about being a writer that is so difficult to explain to family and friends. “Why are you so tired? All you did was write all day.” Yes. And like every other job, I leave mine feeling totally drained. As I should. It means I worked hard and I am proud of that.

To me, THAT is the hardest part of writing a book. Finding the energy to do it — and the energy to do everything else in addition to it. There are days there simply isn’t any left, and as much as I desperately want to make more progress, I physically, mentally, emotionally, cannot do it.

And on those days you know you can’t do it, you have to accept the fact that you can’t do it and move on to the next thing. Wipe away the guilt. Try again tomorrow.

But on most days, you have to Deal With It. With coffee, with a babysitter, with a drink and a few ounces of hope that somehow you will miraculously meet your quota for the day without staring at a blank screen and/or writing 100% garbage.

(Not that writing garbage is a waste of time. But … some salvageable content is nice, sometimes, you know?)

Here’s the good news, friends. You are not alone, if you are also feeling this way. I know it can feel like no one around you gets it and they don’t understand why you work weird hours or why you’re always so tired or why sometimes you just need to be alone (with your work-in-progress).

Well I get it. I get how exhausted you are. But the only solution is to keep inching forward until you figure it out — until you figure out how to balance work and play, wants and needs, writing time and things-that-don’t-require-thinking time.

To write while physically and mentally spent is a challenge we all wish we could avoid. But the reality is, we can’t avoid it. We have to practice and learn to do the work despite the moments we no longer want to.

Keep writing. It’s going to be worth it someday. I promise.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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13 thoughts on “Is This the Hardest Thing About Writing a Book?

  1. Writing a book seems like a very daunting task for me. Perhaps someday. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts. I plan to write a second short story, but I will keep my writing filled with poetry as well.

  2. I have definitely had moments where someone is talking with me, and I can feel them sapping away my energy, and I just want them to stop talking.
    There are definitely times where I come home and just don’t have the energy to write fiction, and I know it.
    That’s why I try to always have a few things that are writing related that I can do even when I’m at quarter mast, i.e. researching places to submit to, outlining a story idea, or working writing/review posts.
    The days when I wake up because I’ve slept enough, and not because of an alarm, where I stand up knowing there’s no schedule, nothing to do besides write, those are magical times.
    I always try to secure at least 1 day a week where nothing is scheduled, everything that’s not done can wait another day, and the only thing I think about is whatever story I’m trying to write.
    Granted, as you mentioned in another post, that can’t be the norm, but those special days are often when I make the most progress, and keep more of what I write.

    1. My goal for mid-2019 is to have a consistent day (probably Sunday) in which I do not work. I really struggle with that, but it’s amazing what one day of rest does for me energy-wise. I write more when I have just come off a brief rest period. I’m looking forward personally to having that one day to at least make writing optional.

      1. Mmm. I find it difficult, since many days are shared between writing and my day job, so days when I can go full writing are few and far between, but I know what you mean. Recently I really pushed myself and got in an extra 5 hours, and the following week my will to write was weak.

      2. It’s definitely a tough balance. I’m slowly learning to pace myself to avoid tiring out. It’s difficult, but I’m actually finding (at least for me) it really works. I feel like I’m writing less, but really I’m just having fewer “off” days/weeks.

  3. The thing I run into is rather odd. I’m making up almost nothing along the way. In one form or the other, some of what I’m writing about has happened, and I’m taking that incident and that trauma, digging up the grave I buried it in, and then allowing it to live and breath again. That can be both very revealing, and very painful to work through.

    1. I get what you mean. Do you ever find it helpful to occasionally write things that aren’t based on reality? I’m all for using creative outlets to reflect on and work through things, but sometimes for me when it becomes too much, I temporarily switch to something a little less heavy. Best of luck to you on everything you’re working on this year regardless. :)

  4. Oh thank you, thank you! This was so refreshing. I try to squeeze everything in during the day and to make it look to my husband as though I haven’t ‘just been writing’. I know that deep down he thinks it’s nonsense, but I believe, yes, I believe in my heart of hearts that this was what I was meant to do. I love it and I believe in myself. But thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in my frustrations and exhaustion. Katie

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